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Table 2 Observational Studies Refuting the Effectiveness of Increased Meal Frequency on Weight loss/Fat loss

From: International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: meal frequency

Study (year) Population Measurements Findings
Dreon et al. [20] (1988) 155 sedentary, overweight males (i.e., 120-140% of ideal weight) (30-59 yrs) 7 day diet records, physical activity questionnaires, VO2 max treadmill test, resting metabolic rate via indirect calorimetry, hydrostatic weighing, and body mass. Meal frequency did not have a significant effect on percent body fat, total weight, fat-free mass, or resting metabolic rate.
Kant et al. [21] (1995) 2,580 males and 4,567 females (25-74 yrs) Baseline 24-hour dietary recall that assessed meal frequency and compared to follow-up interview several years later. Body weight, BMI, and physical activity were also assessed. When regression analysis accounted for various covariates (i.e., age, energy intake, level of physical activity, smoking status, race, education, baseline BMI, alcohol intake, and level of morbidity), no significant differences between weight change and meal frequency were reported either at baseline or the follow-up.
Summerbell et al. [22] (1996) 187 males and females (divided into 4 different age groups (adolescent, working age, middle aged, and elderly). Suspected under-reporters were excluded from final analysis 7 day dietary records and BMI After removing suspected under-reporters from the analysis, only the adolescent group demonstrated a significant inverse relationship between meal frequency and BMI.
Anderson & Rossner [23] 1996) 86 obese and 61 normal weight males (20-60 yrs) Multiple 24 hour dietary recalls (12 total) and BMI No significant differences in food intake patterns were observed after suspected under-reporters were excluded from final analysis (obese: n = 23; normal weight: n = 44).
Crawley & Summerbell [24] (1997) 298 males and 433 females (16-17 yrs) 4 day dietary record and BMI Initial analysis in both males and females revealed that there was a significant inverse relationship between feeding frequency and BMI. Removing suspected under-reporters still yielded a significant inverse relationship. However, after removing overweight male dieters and under-weight/normal weight females who believed they were overweight, no significant relationship between meal frequency and BMI was observed.
Titan et al. [25] (2001) 6,890 males and 7,776 females (45-75 yrs) Food frequency questionnaire, BMI, waist-hip ratio (WHR), and self-reported occupational physical activity After adjusting for confounding variables (i.e., smoking status, age, occupational activity, etc), no consistent significant association in males and females was observed when comparing individuals who ate 1-2 as compared to greater than 6 times per day to BMI or WHR.
Bertéus Forslund et al. [26] (2002) 83 obese and 94 normal weight reference women (37-60 yrs) Meal pattern questionnaire and BMI The obese women consumed a significantly greater 6.1 meals/day as opposed to the reference group (non-overweight women) which consumed 5.2 meals/day.
Pearcey and de Castro [27] (2002) 7 male and 12 female "weight gaining" college students and 7 males and 12 female "weight stable" matched controls (no age range reported) 7 day food intake diary, 7 day physical activity diary, and BMI The observed weight gain in the "weight gaining" adults was attributed to the significantly greater intake of fat, carbohydrate, and overall food per meal, but not meal frequency.
Yannakoulia et al.[28] (2007) 64 pre and 50 post-menopausal women (including normal weight, overweight, and obese) (24-74 yrs) (Suspected under-reporters were excluded from analysis) 3 day food records, activity records, self-reported physical activity assessment, BMI, WHR, and body composition (dual x-ray absorptiometery) There was no association between adiposity indices and eating frequency in pre-menopausal women, but there was a significant positive correlation between body fat percentage and meal frequency in post-menopausal women. Eating frequency was positively correlated with energy intake in both groups of women.
Howarth et al. [2] (2007) 1,792 younger (20-59 yrs) and 893 older (60-69 yrs) males and females (Suspected under-reporters were excluded from analysis) Two 24 hour diet records and BMI After adjusting for sex, age, smoking status, ethnicity, income, etc in both age groups, eating frequency was positively associated with energy intake. Older and younger individuals who ate more than three and six times a day, respectively, had a significantly higher BMI (i.e., in the overweight category) than those who ate less than three and six, respectively.
Duval et al. [29] (2008) 69 non-obese (BMI b/w 20-29 kg/m2), premenopausal women (48-55 yrs) (Suspected under-reporters were excluded from analysis) 7 day food diaries, body composition (dual x-ray absorptiometry), peak VO2, resting energy expenditure (REE) via indirect calorimetry, and physical activity energy expenditure (PAEE) using an accelerometer A significant positive correlation was observed between eating frequency and total energy intake. There was an initial significant negative correlation between eating frequency and each of the following: BMI, body fat percentage and fat mass. However, after adjusting for PAEE and peak oxygen consumption, the associations were no longer significant.