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Ann Hum Biol. 2008 Jan-Feb;35(1):1-10. doi: 10.1080/03014460701779617.

Relationships between physical activity, obesity and meal frequency in adolescents.

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Research Centre in Physical Activity, Health and Leisure, Faculty of Sports, Porto University, Portugal.



The purpose of this study was to assess the associations and impact of increased meal frequency, physical activity and 'skipping' breakfast on obesity levels in a sample of urban adolescents, aged 13-17 years old, from Porto, Portugal.


Overweight and obesity were defined according to age- and sex-specific BMI cut-points. Daily meal frequency was assessed by questionnaire. Self-reported physical activity was recalled.


The proportion of overweight/obese girls (p < or = 0.05) and boys (p < or = 0.001) that consumed fewer than three meals was significantly higher than those reported from normal-weight counterparts. While no statistically significant differences were reported in girls, obese boys skipped breakfast significantly more (13% vs 5.6%; p < or = 0.05) than normal-weight counterparts did. Normal-weight boys but not girls were significantly more active (p < or = 0.01) than obese peers. An additional meal in boys (OR: 2.75; p < or = 0.05) and girls (OR: 1.97; p < or = 0.05) reduced the risk of being overweight/obese. Regardless of gender, breakfast skipping is not seen as a predictor of being overweight/obese. However, boys (OR: 2.10; p < 0.003), but not girls, who were moderately active were more likely to be of normal weight.


The data indicate that increased meal frequency may have a beneficial effect on a reduced BMI. Physical activity and breakfast skipping may be candidate targets for prevention programmes aimed at reducing overweight/obesity among adolescents.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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