Eating Small Frequent Meals for Thinner Kids
Mary Yannakoulia, PhD, of Harokopio University in Athens, and colleagues report ant children and teens who eat more than just three meals a day are 20% less likely of being overweight or obese, especially in boys. The study, which was recently published in Pediatrics, involved a meta-analysis of 10 cross-sectional studies and one case-control study, which included about 19,000 children ages 2 to 19 years.
The study covered different countries, including the US, Brazil and Mediterranean countries. Most studies used self-reports or caregiver reports of eating frequency, which compared the standard three meals with four to five or more eating episodes per day.
The results were not the same for girls, and a cause-and-effect relationship was not shown. However, the authors believe that the study may suggest a target for prevention or early treatment of overweight and obesity. In particular, they suggest that schools may play an important role in influencing children’s eating habits by integrating small frequent meals as an effective way to battle childhood obesity.
The investigators propose that small frequent meals during the day may help to regulate appetite and energy use. Frequent eating can also increase the ratio of carbohydrate to fat in the diet, make kids consume more calories earlier in the day and promote more physical activity.
Although the study had its limitations, such as heterogeneity among the studies, Yannakoulia’s group believes that more investigations are needed to confirm the influence of eating more frequent meals to weight improvement.
Phend, C. More Meals Equal Thinner Kids? MedPage Today.