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Int J Sports Med. 2007 Mar;28(3):265-70. Epub 2006 Oct 6.

Effect of eating frequency on body composition in 9-11-year-old children.

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Laboratory of Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Harokopio University, Athens, Greece.


The aim of this study was twofold: a) to examine the association between eating frequency and body composition in children, and b) to identify possible factors that may explain this relationship. Body composition (anthropometry) and dietary intake (3-day food records) were assessed in a cohort of 151 children. After excluding the underreporters (n = 20), data from 131 children (66 boys and 65 girls) aged 9.9 +/- 0.1 yr with a BMI of 19.6 +/- 0.4 kg/m (2) (means +/- se) were used for further analysis. Children were categorized in tertiles based on the daily number of eating episodes. Physical activity was assessed in a subgroup of 48 volunteers with 4-day accelerometry (RT3, Stayhealthy Inc., Monrovia, CA, USA). The number of eating episodes was inversely associated (p < 0.05) with the sum of skinfolds (r = - 0.17) and % body fat (r = - 0.18) after controlling for age and sex. Frequent eaters presented lower total (p < 0.05) and central adiposity (p < 0.01) compared with the infrequent ones. This was despite the fact that energy intake was higher for the frequent eaters (2077.0 +/- 64.3 vs. 1813.0 +/- 37.8 kcals/day for the frequent and the infrequent eaters, respectively, p < 0.05). Actually, frequent eaters devoted more time to physical activity than infrequent ones (624.7 +/- 13.5 vs. 559.2 +/- 23.1 min/day, p < 0.05). In conclusion, high eating frequency was associated with more favorable body composition in this cohort of school children. Increased energy expenditure due to physical activity may, at least in part, explain the favorable body composition of children who eat frequently.

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