Send to

Choose Destination
Nutrients. 2019 Mar 28;11(4). pii: E719. doi: 10.3390/nu11040719.

The Influence of Meal Frequency and Timing on Health in Humans: The Role of Fasting.

Author information

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Padova, 35131 Padova, Italy.
Faculty of Sport Sciences, UCAM, Catholic University of Murcia, 30107 Murcia, Spain.
Department of Kinesiology & Sport Management, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409, USA.
Department of Psychology, Educational Science and Human Movement, Sport and Exercise Sciences Research Unit, University of Palermo, 90144 Palermo, Italy.
Department of Nutrition and Metabolism, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX 77550, USA.
Sealy Center on Aging, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX 77550, USA.


The influence of meal frequency and timing on health and disease has been a topic of interest for many years. While epidemiological evidence indicates an association between higher meal frequencies and lower disease risk, experimental trials have shown conflicting results. Furthermore, recent prospective research has demonstrated a significant increase in disease risk with a high meal frequency (≥6 meals/day) as compared to a low meal frequency (1⁻2 meals/day). Apart from meal frequency and timing we also have to consider breakfast consumption and the distribution of daily energy intake, caloric restriction, and night-time eating. A central role in this complex scenario is played by the fasting period length between two meals. The physiological underpinning of these interconnected variables may be through internal circadian clocks, and food consumption that is asynchronous with natural circadian rhythms may exert adverse health effects and increase disease risk. Additionally, alterations in meal frequency and meal timing have the potential to influence energy and macronutrient intake.A regular meal pattern including breakfast consumption, consuming a higher proportion of energy early in the day, reduced meal frequency (i.e., 2⁻3 meals/day), and regular fasting periods may provide physiological benefits such as reduced inflammation, improved circadian rhythmicity, increased autophagy and stress resistance, and modulation of the gut microbiota.


cardiovascular health; diabetes; fasting; meal frequency; meal timing; obesity; time-restricted feeding

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI) Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center