Effect of Meal Frequency


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Introduction to Meal Frequency 

Meal frequency is defined as the number of times in a day a person eats a meal or snack. Each kind of macronutrient be it protein, carbohydrate or even fat requirement of varied amounts of energy to break down and process (Optimal Meal Frequency – How Many Meals Should You Eat per Day, 2013). This is regarded as a thermic effect of food and is considered to act as a metabolic boost that has been found to come with eating. The magnitude as well duration of the boost are dependent on what quantity of food being eaten (Farshchi and, 2004). Hence, the consumption of a small meal is likely to cause a metabolic spike that may not last for a longer duration (Meal Frequency and Energy Balance, 2014). On the other hand, a large meal will produce a larger spike that is most likely to last for a long time.

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Many nutritionists have been advising clients to eat on a more frequent basis throughout the day.  The idea is that this eating schedule has been found to be better as it controls blood sugar, cravings and hunger. The basic trend followed by individuals while consuming meals has been 3 meals per day (Hill and, 2008). Studies dating back to 1964 have suggested that being overweight has been found to be inversely related to the number of meals that have been consumed on a daily basis (Crookes, 2006). Scientists have further observed that individuals who had the tendency to nibble every day showed a presence of lower body weight (Meal Frequency & Weight Loss, 2008). This was in comparison to those who were in a habit of gorging. Observational and interventional studies have measured body mass index in relation to meal frequency. They have observed that subjects with the lowest BMIs were the ones who consumed more meals in a day in comparison to those who ate less often (Decker and, 2007).

Objective of Proposal

The aim of the proposal is to find out what meal frequency is the most effective for weight loss. It will also focus on assessing how increased meal frequency can help reduce obesity. The objective is to undergo a systematic review of scientific medical literature in order to identify as well as appraise the evidence given on the present research topic.


The methodology selected for the given study is secondary research. Here, there will be searching of databases such as Pub med, Science Direct and Cochrane Registry in order to identify the studies. The keywords to be used in the search will be meal frequency, obesity, and weight loss. There has been an inclusion of randomized trials, and cross-sectional, observational as well as interventional studies on the relation between increased meal frequency and reduction in body fat. A reference list of studies was further checked to identify if they could be used for evaluation.

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Meal frequency has been thought to have a greater influence on the overall weight of the body. In this regard, the studies had previously revealed that smaller meals rather than less large meals helped in spreading out the daily calorie intake and also resulted in increased metabolism of the body (Smeets and Westerterp-Plantenga, 2008). As per a study done by Arciero, P. J., and, 2013, it has been found that if individuals increase their overall meal frequency then they should enhance their protein intake. Consuming protein more frequently throughout the day causes a decrease in body fat and abdominal body fat. It further increases lean body mass (Arciero and, 2013). In the same way, the study was carried out on physically active individuals in terms of the impact of meal frequency by La Bounty, and, 2011. It was found that an increased meal frequency did not bring a favourable change in body composition for sedentary populations.

However, it assisted in a decrease in hunger followed by improved appetite control (La Bounty and, 201). Results by Ma, Y., and, 2003 have further depicted that increasing the eating episodes on a per-day basis will lead to a decrease in the overall risk of obesity (Ma and, 2003). A research study carried out by J.D. Cameron has concluded that increasing Meals may not promote greater body weight loss under the conditions described in the study (Cameron, 2011). A study by Flores, 2012 has depicted that consuming a low-calorie but nutrient-intense diet with the presence of moderate carbohydrates and proteins, low fat and increased frequency but in smaller portions may aid in controlling appetite thereby reducing obesity (Flores, 2012).

Some research studies have further suggested that eating small meals on a frequent basis over the entire course of the day provided for a more metabolic advantage in terms of weight loss (What's Best, 3 or 6 Meals Per Day? 2013). In one of the studies, for dieting people it was found that there were more chances of success if they consumed seven meals each day. This was different in comparison to individuals who consumed three meals per day (Leidy and, 2011). However, some other studies have failed to replicate this phenomenon in terms of meal frequency. The studies have suggested that increased meal frequency may not have an impact on weight loss or provide for added metabolic advantage (Stote, 2007).


In spite of the 40 years of research that has been carried out in this field, there seems to be a paucity of long-term studies with a huge sample size that investigate the effect of meal frequency on weight loss. Hence, there exists no strong evidence to suggest that increasing meal frequency may lead to weight loss. However, most of the studies favour smaller meals followed by increasing the frequency (Leidy and, 2010). Here, the number can be fixed from 3 to 6. In this respect, it has been found that meals should have more protein content, moderate carbohydrate and low in fat so as to reap the maximum benefits. In this regard, eating three meals a day also seems too effective as it avoids the chances of underrating. Hence, these should be spaced at a distance of every 5 hours. This will aid in providing for a good time between insulin and glucagon. This tendency would further assist in resetting hormones followed by stimulating fat loss (Meal Frequency, 2013).


  • Arciero, P. J., and, 2013. Increased protein intake and meal frequency reduce abdominal fat during energy balance and energy deficit. Obesity.
  • Cameron, J.D., Cyr, M.J., and Doucet, E., 2010. Increased meal frequency does not promote greater weight loss in subjects who were prescribed an 8-week equi-energetic energy-restricted diet.
  • Crookes, P.F., 2006. Surgical treatment of morbid obesity. Ann Rev Med.
  • Decker, G.A., and, 2007. Gastrointestinal and nutritional complications after bariatric surgery.
  • Farshchi, H.R., and, 2004. Decreased thermic effect of food after an irregular compared with a regular meal pattern in healthy lean women. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord.
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