Objective: To examine associations between eating frequency (EF) and body fatness in pre- and postmenopausal women, after excluding potential low-energy reporters.
Research methods and procedures: In this cross-sectional study of 220 free-living women, 64 pre- and 50 postmenopausal non-low-energy-reporting women were further analyzed (age, 24 to 74 years; BMI, 18.5 to 38.6 kg/m2). Anthropometric and body composition measurements (DXA) were performed in all study participants. EF, energy, and macronutrient intake were assessed by 3-day food record. Physical activity level and energy expenditure were assessed by self-reported questionnaire.
Results: No association between EF and adiposity indices was detected in premenopausal women. In contrast, EF was positively correlated with percentage body fat in postmenopausal women (r = 0.30, p = 0.03). EF was positively correlated with total energy intake in both groups and with total energy expenditure in premenopausal women only (r = 0.34, p = 0.02). Multivariate analysis revealed that, in postmenopausal women, EF was a significant predictor of body fatness (standardized beta = 0.41, p = 0.01).
Discussion: Frequent eating was not found to be related to adiposity in premenopausal women, but it was associated with increased body fat in postmenopausal women. Possible explanations could be that the frequent eating is not associated with a physically active lifestyle in postmenopausal women or that frequent eating predisposes women after menopause to a higher energy intake by increasing food stimuli and rendering it more difficult for them to control energy balance.