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Appetite. 1997 Aug;29(1):55-9.

Eating frequency in the Nationwide Food Consumption Survey (U.S.A.), 1987-1988.

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Epidemiology Branch, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA.


This study was done to provide basic descriptive data on the variation in meal frequency in the U.S. The data analysed were from the 1987-1988 Nationwide Food Consumption Survey (NFCS), a stratified random sample of American households. Participants were asked to provide one 24-h diet recall and two 1-day diet records. Individuals who were pregnant, lactating, or younger than 19 years old were excluded. If more than one eligible subject per household participated, one subject was selected at random. Of the 4,078 eligible participants, data for 3,182 were complete for all three days and were included in the analyses. On average participants ate 3.47 times daily (SD 0.90). When eating occasions during which 70 or fewer kcal were excluded (tea, coffee, or diet beverages, primarily), the mean was 3.12 (SD 0.74), and over 90% of subjects ate between 1. 50 and 4.49 times daily. The ratio of within- to between-person variance in number of eating times daily was 1.17 (</=70 kcal excluded). The day-to-day variation in an individual's eating frequency was relatively large compared with the between-subject variation, suggesting that data for multiple days are needed to measure an individual's eating frequency with precision.

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