LOMA LINDA (CBSLA.com) – A study released Wednesday analyzing more than 50,000 people’s eating habits has found that eating fewer meals per day and putting an emphasis on breakfast can help encourage weight loss.

Researchers at the Loma Linda University School of Public Health determined that four factors were linked to a decrease in body mass index, which uses your weight and height to measure body fat. Those were:

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— Eating just one or two meals per day.
— Maintaining an overnight fast of up to 18 hours
— Eating breakfast rather than skipping it.
— Making breakfast the largest meal of the day.

Researchers found that two factors were associated with a higher BMI: Eating more than three meals a day, including snacking, and making supper the largest meal of the day.

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The study also determined that, regardless of eating habits, participants tended to gain weight on a year-by-year basis until reaching the age of 60. From age 60 on, they tended to lose weight year-by-year.

Loma Linda researchers conducted the study in conjunction with the Czech Republic Ministry of Health. They used a process known as linear regression analysis to reach their results.

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The study, titled “Meal frequency and timing are associated with Body Mass Index in the Adventist Health Study-2,” will appear in the September edition of the Journal of Nutrition.