What Happens To Your Cholesterol When You Only Eat Once A Day


JANUARY 1, 2024

Man eating a cheeseburger and drinking a beer. – Lordhenrivoton/Getty Images

Eating three square meals a day has been drilled into many people’s heads for years. However, the rise in popularity of intermittent fasting has disrupted this tradition. Some intermittent fasting methods like the 18:6 method might have you skipping breakfast but eating your meals from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Other plans might restrict calories or fast altogether a few days a week while eating normally on other days.

Some types of intermittent fasting are more restricting. The One Meal a Day (OMAD) diet restricts your eating to a single meal a day so your body resorts to burning fat rather than food for fuel. While this type of eating might have you losing a little weight, it can be difficult to sustain for the long term (per WebMD). Eating just once a day might not be good for your cardiovascular health, according to a 2007 article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Although you might see some changes in your body composition such as a loss of fat, you’ll see a rise in both your LDL and HDL cholesterol levels as well as an increase in blood pressure.

Eating Fewer Meals Can Impact Your Heart Health

Woman eating a healthy salad. – NDAB Creativity/Shutterstock

Four meals a day might sound like a lot, but it might be good for some of your cholesterol levels, according to a 2020 study in Neuroendocrinology Letters. While keeping the total calories the same, the study had some people eating fewer than four meals a day and others eating four or more. Those who ate smaller, more frequent meals had lower fasting triglycerides and higher HDL cholesterol concentrations compared to consuming three or fewer meals daily. However, there weren’t any differences in LDL and total cholesterol levels.

A 2021 article in Clinical Nutrition combined the results of 21 randomized controlled trials on the effect of meal frequency on cardiometabolic risk factors such as cholesterol and blood glucose. A higher meal frequency is associated with lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels.

Eating one meal per day might not be all bad news if you’re healthy, according to a 2022 article in Frontiers in Physiology. Compared to eating three meals a day, having a single evening meal led to lower body weight and fat mass, increased fat burning during exercise, and lower blood sugar. Eating one meal a day also didn’t impact their aerobic capacity or strength.

It’s Better To Eat Earlier In The Day

Man eating a healthy breakfast. – Kupicoo/Getty Images

You don’t have to give up intermittent fasting, but it might be a good idea to time your meals differently if you’re concerned about your cholesterol. A 2019 article in Nutrients said that eating most of your calories earlier in the day is better for your overall health rather than eating heavier meals late in the day. Having a fasting period between 12 to 16 hours that might begin late afternoon until the next morning could also result in better markers of health such as increased insulin sensitivity, reduced cholesterol, and lower inflammation.

Breakfast is a key meal, according to a 2017 statement in Circulation from the American Heart Association. Skipping breakfast is usually associated with poor diet quality, missing two-thirds of your daily nutrients while consuming more added sugars. Those who eat breakfast tend to have fewer risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as high cholesterol, high LDL cholesterol, and low HDL cholesterol.

Courtesy: The original article appeared on Health Digest