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Eur J Clin Nutr. 1996 Aug;50(8):491-7.

Meal frequency; does it determine postprandial lipaemia?

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  • 1Nutrition Research Group, School of Biological Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK.



To determine the effect of altering meal frequency on postprandial lipaemia and associated parameters.


A randomized open cross over study to examine the programming effects of altering meal frequency. A standard test meal was given on three occasions following: (i) the normal diet; (ii) a period of two weeks on a nibbling and (iii) a period of two weeks on a gorging diet.


Free living subjects associated with the University of Surrey.


Eleven female volunteers (age 22 +/- 0.89 y) were recruited.


The subjects were requested to consume the same foods on either a nibbling diet (12 meals per day) or a gorging diet (three meals per day) for a period of two weeks. The standard test meal containing 80 g fat, 63 g carbohydrate and 20 g protein was administered on the day prior to the dietary intervention and on the day following each period of intervention.


Fasting and postprandial blood samples were taken for the analysis of plasma triacylglycerol, non-esterified fatty acids, glucose, immunoreactive insulin, glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide levels (GIP) and glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1), fasting total, low density lipoprotein (LDL)- and high density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol concentrations and postheparin lipoprotein lipase (LPL) activity measurements. Plasma paracetamol was measured following administration of a 1.5 g paracetamol load with the meal as an index of gastric emptying.


The compliance to the two dietary regimes was high and there were no significant differences between the nutrient intakes on the two intervention diets. There were no significant differences in fasting or postprandial plasma concentrations of triacylglycerol, non-esterified fatty acids, glucose, immunoreactive insulin, GIP and GLP-1 levels, in response to the standard test meal following the nibbling or gorging dietary regimes. There were no significant differences in fasting total or LDL-cholesterol concentrations, or in the 15 min postheparin lipoprotein lipase activity measurements. There was a significant increase in HDL-cholesterol in the subjects following the gorging diet compared to the nibbling diet.


The results suggest that previous meal frequency for a period of two weeks in young healthy women does not alter the fasting or postprandial lipid or hormonal response to a standard high fat meal.


The findings of this study did not confirm the previous studies which suggested that nibbling is beneficial in reducing the concentrations of lipid and hormones. The rigorous control of diet content and composition in the present study compared with others, suggest reported effects of meal frequency may be due to unintentional alteration in nutrient and energy intake in previous studies.

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