The results of the new study, conducted in the Czech Republic, have been published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.
The study looked at 54 patients, 29 men and 25 women. All were taking oral medications for diabetes. The patients were between 30 and 70 years old and were divided into two groups of 27. They were asked to follow one of two restricted-calorie diets for 12 weeks. After completing one diet, they switched to the other, again for 12 weeks.
Each diet contained 500 calories fewer than the recommended daily amount. One included six small meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and three small snacks. The other included two large meals: breakfast eaten between 6 and 10 a.m., and lunch between noon and 4 p.m.
The diets had the same calories and nutrients.
Large-Meal Group Loses More
The researchers found that people lost weight in both diets, but there was more weight loss in the group that ate two large meals. People in that group lost 8.2 pounds on average, while the people who ate six small meals lost 5 pounds on average.
Blood sugar levels went down in both diets, more for people eating the two-meal diet.
No side effects were noted for either diet.
The authors acknowledge that their data contradicts a widely held opinion that eating more frequently is healthier.
Richard Elliott, research communications officer at Diabetes UK, says in a statement that more research is needed before people with diabetes change their eating habits.
"What we do know is that eating a healthy balanced diet, taking regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight, together with taking any medication prescribed by your doctor, is vital for effective management of type 2 diabetes," Elliott says.