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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012 May;20(5):985-92. doi: 10.1038/oby.2011.360. Epub 2011 Dec 15.

Effects of manipulating eating frequency during a behavioral weight loss intervention: a pilot randomized controlled trial.

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Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Marywood University, Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA.


Eating frequency has been inversely related to BMI but the impact of eating frequency on weight loss is unclear. This randomized controlled trial pilot study examined the effect of eating frequency on hunger, energy intake, and weight loss during a 6-month behavioral weight loss intervention. Participants (age: 51.0 ± 9.9 years, BMI: 35.5 ± 4.8 kg/m(2), 57.8% female, 94.1% white) were randomized to one of two eating frequency prescriptions: Three meal (n = 25): three eating bouts/day; or grazing (n = 26): eat at least 100 kcals every 2-3 h. Both groups attended 20 sessions and had identical dietary (1,200-1,500 kcals/day, <30% kcals from fat) and physical activity goals (200 min/week). Assessments were conducted at 0, 3, and 6 months. Using intent-to-treat analyses, grazing reported a greater eating frequency than three meal at 6 months (5.8 ± 1.1 eating bouts/day vs. 3.2 ± 0.6 eating bouts/day, P < 0.001). Grazing reported a significant reduction in hunger from 0 to 6 months (56.3 ± 15.7 mm vs. 47.9 ± 18.5 mm, P < 0.05). Energy intake and BMI were significantly (P < 0.001) reduced from 0 to 6 months (energy intake: 2,198 ± 692 kcals/day vs. 1,266 ± 353 kcals/day; BMI: 35.5 ± 4.8 kg/m(2) vs. 30.6 ± 4.9 kg/m(2)). There were no significant differences in energy intake or BMI between the groups. While eating more frequently reduced hunger, it may not be related to greater reductions in energy intake or BMI during a behavioral weight loss intervention.

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