An urban weight-loss legend is that eating small meals throughout the day promotes weight loss, compared to eating several larger meals. The rationale was that frequent, small meals increased the caloric cost of digestion, suppressed appetite and increased gut chemicals that prevent hunger.
A University of Ottawa study, led by Eric Doucet, showed that frequent, small meals didn't promote weight loss. People consumed a reduced-calorie diet with meals served 3-6 times per day for 8 weeks (calorie intake was the same). Both groups lost about 5% of body weight, but the frequency of meals had no effect on weight loss.
(British Journal Nutrition, in press; published online November 30, 2009)