Meal frequency and timing: impact on metabolic disease risk

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Purpose of review

The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the most recent human intervention trials that have examined the impact of meal frequency or meal timing on metabolic disease risk factors.

Recent findings

Findings from intervention studies published over the past 12 months indicate that weight loss may be more pronounced with decreased meal frequency (two meals per day) versus increased meal frequency (six meals per day) under hypocaloric conditions. However, under isocaloric conditions, no effect on body weight was noted. Plasma lipid concentrations and glucoregulatory factors (fasting glucose, insulin, and insulin sensitivity) were not affected by alterations in meal frequency. As for meal timing, delaying the lunchtime meal by 3.5 h (from 1.30 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.) has no impact on body weight, but may impair glucose tolerance in young healthy adults.


In sum, altering meal frequency has little impact on body weight, plasma lipids, or glucoregulatory factors, whereas eating the majority of calories later in the day may be detrimental for glycemic control. These preliminary findings, however, still require confirmation by longer term, larger scale controlled trials.

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