We've all heard the saying "eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper" - now a large study has hailed it a successful weight loss strategy.

And slimmers see better results if they skip dinner altogether, the researchers discovered.

The idea of having a hearty breakfast to boost metabolism and set up for the day is popular with a host of stars including Angelina Jolie and Kelly Osbourne, reports the Daily Mail.

The new findings rubbish the concept that weight loss can be achieved by "eating little and often" - a method which also has its devotees including Jennifer Aniston.

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Indeed, no snacking between meals was found to be a key to more successful weight loss.

After studying 50,000 adults, the researchers also recommend fasting overnight for up to 18 hours.

They wrote in the Journal of Nutrition: "Our results suggest that in relatively healthy adults, eating less frequently, no snacking, consuming breakfast, and eating the largest meal in the morning may be effective methods for preventing long-term weight gain.

"Eating breakfast and lunch five to six hours apart and making the overnight fast last 18 to 19 hours may be a useful practical strategy."

KEY FINDINGS

Dr Kahleova from Loma Linda University School of Public Health in California and her team analysed data gleaned from 50,660 participants of adults from the Adventist Health Study-2 who were over 30.

Their eating habits and weight were monitored for an average of seven years.

The researchers discovered four factors associated with a decrease in body mass index (BMI).

Firstly, eating only one or two meals per day and, secondly, maintaining an overnight fast of up to 18 hours.

Thirdly, eating breakfast instead of skipping it, and fourthly, making breakfast or lunch the largest meal of the day.

People who made breakfast the largest meal saw a more significant decrease in their BMI than those who made lunch their most calorific meal.

Eating more than three meals per day - snacks were counted as extra meals - and making supper the largest meal of the day were associated with a higher BMI.

Should your breakfast look like this? Photo / Getty
Should your breakfast look like this? Photo / Getty

THEORY BEHIND WEIGHT LOSS METHOD

The process of digesting large amounts of food eaten at one sitting is said to burn a significant number of calories, so the potential for weight gain is reduced.

The result is someone is likely to gain less weight from eating 2000 calories at one sitting than 2000 calories spread out over many snacks, explained Dr Kahleova.

Generally, more snacks means more caloric intake.

Imagine having lots of food - including sweets like cake - every morning and still losing weight. The Big Breakfast Diet says it's possible.

Endocrinologist Daniela Jakubowicz, author of The Big Breakfast Diet, says the time of day we eat impacts the way our bodies process food.

In her previous research, people eating a big breakfast were found to have significantly lower levels of a hunger-regulating hormone than their counterparts in a "big dinner" group.

This made them more satiated and gave them less desire for snacking later in the day.

Professor Jakubowicz said: "Eating the right foods at the wrong times can not only slow down weight loss, it can also be harmful.

"Our study found those in the big dinner group actually increased fat levels in their body, despite their weight loss."

THE "EAT LITTLE AND OFTEN" WAY

Jennifer Aniston attributes her slim figure to eating small portions regularly over the course of the day.

Rather than indulging in three larger meals, the 48-year-old actress finds time to enjoy five meals, as well as five, five-minute work outs and a run, each day.

In a study in 2015, researchers from universities in California and New Mexico said eating six small meals a day was better than three square meals.

In both regimes, the total amount of calories consumed remained the same.

The findings show that by following both regimes, dieters lost weight.

However those in the group eating six meals a day preserved a healthier body composition and lost less "fat-free" body mass.

Those who ate six meals a day also had healthier levels of glucose, insulin and cholesterol.