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J Nutr. 2016 Jan;146(1):59-64. doi: 10.3945/jn.115.216978. Epub 2015 Nov 11.

Higher Eating Frequency Does Not Decrease Appetite in Healthy Adults.

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Nutritional Sciences Program, University of Washington, Seattle WA; and Cancer Prevention Program and
Nutritional Sciences Program, University of Washington, Seattle WA; and.
Division of Public Health Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA.
Nutritional Sciences Program, University of Washington, Seattle WA; and Cancer Prevention Program and.



Consumption of small, frequent meals is suggested as an effective approach to control appetite and food intake and might be a strategy for weight loss or healthy weight maintenance. Despite much speculation on the topic, scientific evidence is limited to support such a relation in the absence of changes to diet composition.


We examined the effects of high compared with low eating frequency (EF) on self-reported appetite as a secondary outcome in a controlled trial.


We conducted a randomized, crossover intervention trial in 12 participants (4 men, 8 women) who completed 2 isocaloric 3-wk intervention phases of low EF (3 eating occasions/d) compared with high EF (8 eating occasions/d). On the last morning of each study phase, participants completed a 4-h appetite testing session. During the appetite testing session, participants completing the low EF phase consumed a meal at 0800. Participants completing the high EF intervention consumed the same meal spread evenly over 2 eating occasions at 0800 and 1030. Standardized ratings of hunger, desire to eat, fullness, thirst, and nausea were completed every 30 min with the use of paper-and-pencil semianchored 100-mm visual analog scales. A composite appetite score was calculated as the mean of hunger, desire to eat, and the inverse of fullness (calculated as 100-fullness rating). Linear regression analysis compared ratings between low EF and high EF conditions.


The mean composite appetite score was higher in the high EF condition for the total testing period (baseline through 1200) (P < 0.05) and for the time period from baseline through 1030 (P < 0.001).


The results from this study in 12 healthy adults do not support the popularized notion that small, frequent meals help to decrease overall appetite. This trial was registered at as NCT02548026.


appetite; eating frequency; hunger; meal frequency; postprandial; satiety

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