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Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 1997;67(3):176-82.

Influence of the number of meals taken per day on cardiovascular risk factors and the energy and nutrient intakes of a group of elderly people.

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Departamento de Nutrición, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain.


The aim of this investigation was to analyse the influence of the number of meals per day on a range of cardiovascular risk factors and on the energy and nutrient intakes of a group of elderly people. The participants in this study were 150 elderly people (64 men and 86 women) from Madrid. Food intake was followed over a period of 5 days. "Precise individual weighing" was used to determine the intake of institutionalized subjects (n = 58) whilst "food intake records" were used to register the same for independent subjects (n = 92). The nutrient and energy intake of the studied population was then determined from these data. The number of meals taken was also recorded. Serum cholesterol and triacylglycerol levels were determined using enzymatic methods. In this population, the meal most frequently omitted was breakfast. No subject took only one meal per day, though 7.4% took only two. 56.6% took three meals and 36% took four. No subject took more than four meals per day. As the number of meals taken increased, so too the covering of theoretical energy expenditure, and the intakes of a range of nutrients became closer to those recommended e.g. proteins, fibre, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, magnesium and iodine. As the number of meals taken per day increased, carbohydrate intake (in g/1000 Kcal and as % of energy) also increased, and approached recommended levels more closely. As observed in other studies, blood cholesterol levels were seen to be negatively correlated with increasing number of meals (r = -0.2297, p < 0.05). Further, those subjects who distributed their food intake more evenly throughout the day showed lower serum cholesterol (p < 0.05). VLDL-cholesterol (p < 0.05) and triacylglycerol levels (p < 0.05). The results favour the distribution of energy intake over the day as a method of improving nutritional status and as a factor that might improve blood lipid profiles.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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