Skipping meals may be healthier, say scientists
Fasting every other day actually appear to improve the health, say scientists who have carried out studies on mice.
Even though the animals did not end up eating any fewer calories, they appeared better able to control their blood sugar.
Brain cells from these mice even coped better when a neurotoxin was injected into their brain.
However, experts have warned that other evidence suggests missing meals is not good for human health.
The study was carried out the National Institute on Aging (NIA) in the US.
The scientists used three groups of mice, one of which was allowed to eat normally, one given 30% fewer calories in their diets, and one allowed to eat as much they wanted - but only on every other day.
They found that the "meal-skipping" mice had lower blood glucose, and insulin levels compared with the other groups.
This quality offers some suggestion that these mice might be less likely to develop diabetes - although the longer-term consequences of such a diet were not investigated.
However, in separate tests, the three groups of mice were exposed to a neurotoxin called kainate.
Nerve cells from the "meal-skipping" mice were less likely to be damaged or killed by this.
Dr Mark Mattson, who led the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said: "The implication of the new findings on the beneficial effects of regular fasting in laboratory animals is that their health may actually improve if the frequency of their meals is reduced.
"However, this finding, while intriguing, will need to be explored further."
Human nutrition experts are sceptical about the potential benefits to be gained from skipping meals.
A spokesperson for the British Nutrition Foundation told BBC News Online: "We don't think what happens in mice would necessarily be completely parallel to what happens in humans.
"The things that would concern me about people skipping meals would be the effect on the overall nutrient intake."
She said that missing established mealtimes could also make people more vulnerable to eating unhealthy snackfoods on impulse.