Relationships between physical activity, obesity and meal frequency in adolescents

Ann Hum Biol. 2008 Jan-Feb;35(1):1-10. doi: 10.1080/03014460701779617.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess the associations and impact of increased meal frequency, physical activity and 'skipping' breakfast on obesity levels in a sample of urban adolescents, aged 13-17 years old, from Porto, Portugal.

Methods: Overweight and obesity were defined according to age- and sex-specific BMI cut-points. Daily meal frequency was assessed by questionnaire. Self-reported physical activity was recalled.

Results: The proportion of overweight/obese girls (p < or = 0.05) and boys (p < or = 0.001) that consumed fewer than three meals was significantly higher than those reported from normal-weight counterparts. While no statistically significant differences were reported in girls, obese boys skipped breakfast significantly more (13% vs 5.6%; p < or = 0.05) than normal-weight counterparts did. Normal-weight boys but not girls were significantly more active (p < or = 0.01) than obese peers. An additional meal in boys (OR: 2.75; p < or = 0.05) and girls (OR: 1.97; p < or = 0.05) reduced the risk of being overweight/obese. Regardless of gender, breakfast skipping is not seen as a predictor of being overweight/obese. However, boys (OR: 2.10; p < 0.003), but not girls, who were moderately active were more likely to be of normal weight.

Conclusion: The data indicate that increased meal frequency may have a beneficial effect on a reduced BMI. Physical activity and breakfast skipping may be candidate targets for prevention programmes aimed at reducing overweight/obesity among adolescents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Anthropometry
  • Body Mass Index
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Overweight / epidemiology*
  • Overweight / etiology
  • Overweight / prevention & control
  • Portugal / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires