Increased meal frequency attenuates fat-free mass losses and some markers of health status with a portion-controlled weight loss diet

Nutr Res. 2015 May;35(5):375-83. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2015.03.003. Epub 2015 Mar 17.


Increased meal frequency (MF) may be associated with improvements in blood markers of health and body composition during weight loss; however, this claim has not been validated. The purpose of the study was to determine if either a 2-meal (2 MF) or 6-meal frequency (6 MF) regimen can improve body composition and blood-based markers of health while consuming a portion-controlled equihypocaloric diet. Eleven (N=11) obese women (52 ± 7 years, 101.7 ± 22.6 kg, 39.1 ± 7.6 kg/m(2)) were randomized into treatment condition (2 MF or 6 MF) for 2 weeks, completed a 2-week washout, and alternated treatment conditions. In pre/post fashion, changes in body composition, glucose, insulin, and lipid components were measured in response to a test meal. Body mass was successfully lost (P ≤ .05) under both feeding regimens (2 MF: -2.8 ± 1.5 vs 6 MF: -1.9 ± 1.5 kg). Altering MF did not impact glucose, insulin, total cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (P>.05). On average, fat-free mass (FFM) decreased by -3.3% ± 2.6% following the 2 MF condition and, on average, increased by 1.2% ± 1.7% following the 6 MF condition (P ≤ .05). Fasting high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) percentage increased during the 2 MF condition; this was significantly greater than that in the 6 MF condition (1.3% ± 12.2% vs 0.12% ± 10.3%) (P ≤ .05). Overall, reductions in MF (2 MF) were associated with improved HDL-C levels; but the clinical significance is not clear. Alternatively, increased MF (6 MF) did appear to favorably preserve FFM during weight loss. In conclusion, caloric restriction was effective in reducing body mass and attenuating FFM changes in body composition; however, glucose, insulin, and lipid metabolism had no significant differences between MF.

Keywords: Eating frequency; Glucose; Insulin; Lean body mass; Obesity; Reduced-calorie diet.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Diet, Reducing / adverse effects*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Group Processes
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Meals
  • Middle Aged
  • New Mexico
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Obesity, Morbid / blood
  • Obesity, Morbid / diet therapy*
  • Patient Compliance
  • Patient Dropouts
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Portion Size
  • Snacks
  • Weight Loss


  • Biomarkers