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Proc Nutr Soc. 2016 Nov;75(4):475-486. Epub 2016 Jun 22.

Meal irregularity and cardiometabolic consequences: results from observational and intervention studies.

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Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences,Vrije University Amsterdam,Section of Health and Life,de Boelelaan 1085,1081 HV Amsterdam,The Netherlands.
Institute of Health & Society and Human Nutrition Research Centre,Newcastle University,Newcastle Upon Tyne NE2 4HH,UK.
Department of Nutritional Sciences,Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences,University of Surrey,Guildford GU2 7XH,UK.


Studying irregular meal patterns fits in with the latest research focusing not only on what people eat but also when they eat, also called chrono-nutrition. Chrono-nutrition involves studying the impact of nutrition on metabolism via circadian patterns, including three aspects of time: (ir)regularity, frequency and clock time. The present paper aimed to narratively review research on irregular meal patterns and cardiometabolic consequences. Only few cross-sectional studies and prospective cohort studies were identified, and most of these suggested that eating meals irregularly is associated with a higher risk of the metabolic syndrome and cardiometabolic risk factors, including BMI and blood pressure. This was supported by two randomised controlled intervention studies showing that consuming meals regularly for 2 weeks v. an irregular meal pattern, led to beneficial impact on cardiometabolic risk factors as lower peak insulin, lower fasting total and LDL-cholesterol, both in lean and obese women. In conclusion, the limited evidence on meal regularity and cardiometabolic consequences supports the hypothesis that consuming meals irregularly is adversely associated with cardiometabolic risk. However, it also highlights the need for more large-scale studies, including detailed dietary assessment to further advance the understanding of the impact of chrono-nutrition on public health.


CLOCK circadian locomotor output cycles kaput; RR risk ratios; Cardiometabolic disease risk; Chrono-nutrition; Irregularity; Meal frequency; Meal patterns

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