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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008 Jun;16(6):1302-7. doi: 10.1038/oby.2008.203. Epub 2008 Apr 3.

Eating meals irregularly: a novel environmental risk factor for the metabolic syndrome.

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Department of Medicine, Atherosclerosis Research Unit, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.



Skipping meals is a common practice in our current society; however, it is not clear whether eating meals regularly is associated with the metabolic syndrome.


Our aim was to assess the association of eating meals regularly with parameters of the metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance in a representative population-based cohort of 60-year-old men and women.


A population-based cross-sectional study of 3,607 individuals (1,686 men and 1,921 women), aged 60 years, was conducted in Stockholm County, Sweden. Medical history, socioeconomic factors, and lifestyle data were collected by a questionnaire and a medical examination, which included laboratory tests.


Of the subjects who were regular eaters, 20% fulfilled the criteria for the metabolic syndrome vs. 27% of subjects who were irregular eaters (P < 0.0001). The adjusted odds ratio (OR) for having the greatest number of components of the metabolic syndrome in subjects who were regular eaters was 0.27 (95% confidence interval (CI), 0.13-0.54) using subjects who did not fulfill any criteria for the metabolic syndrome as a reference group. Eating meals regularly was also inversely related to insulin resistance (OR, 0.68 (95% CI, 0.48-0.97)) and to gamma-glutamyl transferase (OR, 0.52 (95% CI, 0.33-83)) after full adjustment.


Eating meals regularly is inversely associated to the metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and (high) serum concentrations of gamma-glutamyl transferase. These findings suggest that eating meals irregularly may be part of several potential environmental risk factors that are associated with the metabolic syndrome and may have future implications in giving dietary advice to prevent and/or treat the syndrome.

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