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Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Feb;95(2):290-6. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.016881. Epub 2012 Jan 4.

Less frequent eating predicts greater BMI and waist circumference in female adolescents.

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Dr Robert C and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health, University of California, Berkeley, 94720, USA.



Little is known about the effect of eating frequency on adiposity.


The study aim was to assess the prospective relation of an objective measure of eating frequency with adiposity in girls from ages 9-10 to 19-20 y.


By using data from 3-d diet records collected from 2372 girls in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study, meal, snack, and total eating frequencies aggregated over the first 2 study years were examined in relation to 10-y change in BMI and waist circumference (WC).


Eating frequency was lower in black and older girls than in white and younger girls (P < 0.0001). In whites, lower initial snack and total eating frequencies were related to greater 10-y increases in BMI (P = 0.023 and 0.012, respectively) and WC (P = 0.030 and 0.015, respectively). In blacks, lower initial meal and snack frequencies were related to greater increases in BMI (P = 0.004 and 0.022, respectively) and WC (P = 0.052 and 0.005, respectively). Also, in blacks, lower initial total eating frequency was related to greater increases in WC (P = 0.010). After adjustment for baseline adiposity measure, race, parental education, physical activity, television and video viewing, total energy intake, and dieting for weight loss, lower initial total eating frequency remained related to greater 10-y increases in BMI (P = 0.013) and WC (P = 0.036).


A lower eating frequency predicts a greater gain in adiposity in adolescent females. Intervention trials are needed to test if changing the frequency of eating can affect obesity risk.

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