Eating Frequency and Anthropometry

  • Karine Duval
  • Éric Doucet


There is a belief that eating between meals, or snacking, leads to increases in weight and obesity. Public health advice for body weight control often suggests avoiding snacks between meals in order to not increase total energy intake. However, available results from research on the influence of eating frequency on body weight status are equivocal. Studies in both adults and children have either failed to find a significant relationship between eating frequency and adiposity, or have found an inverse relationship. Several methodological discrepancies have been proposed to explain some differences observed between studies or the lack of such a relationship: various definitions of eating occasions, under-reporting of food intake, especially among the obese, various methods of assessing food intake and body composition, and the fact that many studies did not take into account factors related to energy expenditure, especially physical activity. Despite the inconclusive results, eating frequency seems to be related with leanness in men. In women, many studies found no association or negative correlation between eating frequency and adiposity, despite a higher energy intake. It was suggested that a higher eating frequency could very well be a marker of a physically active lifestyle, at least in leaner individuals. The impact of eating frequency on weight loss during energy restriction and on energy expenditure is more conclusive. No difference in total energy expenditure has been documented as a function of daily eating occasions and weight loss does not seem to be facilitated by high meal frequency. There is a need to examine the relationship between eating frequency and adiposity using longer-term studies with sufficiently large sample sizes and using adequate and standardized methodologies.


Cholesterol Obesity Carbohydrate Polypeptide Calorimetry 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Body mass index


Basal metabolic rate


Doubly labeled water


Energy expenditure


Eating frequency


Energy intake


Glucose-dependent Insulinotropic Polypeptide




Low density lipoprotein


Physical activity energy expenditure


Physical activity level


Resting energy expenditure


Resting metabolic rate


Total energy expenditure


Thermic effect of food


Peak oxygen uptake


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Behavioral and Metabolic Research Unit, School of Human KineticsUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada

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