Eating Frequency, Food Intake, and Weight: A Systematic Review of Human and Animal Experimental Studies

Front Nutr. 2015 Dec 18;2:38. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2015.00038. eCollection 2015.


Eating frequently during the day, or "grazing," has been proposed to assist with managing food intake and weight. This systematic review assessed the effect of greater eating frequency (EF) on intake and anthropometrics in human and animal experimental studies. Studies were identified through the PubMed electronic database. To be included, studies needed to be conducted in controlled settings or use methods that carefully monitored food intake, and measure food intake or anthropometrics. Studies using human or animal models of disease states (i.e., conditions influencing glucose or lipid metabolism), aside from being overweight or obese, were not included. The 25 reviewed studies (15 human and 10 animal studies) contained varying study designs, EF manipulations (1-24 eating occasions per day), lengths of experimentation (230 min to 28 weeks), and sample sizes (3-56 participants/animals per condition). Studies were organized into four categories for reporting results: (1) human studies conducted in laboratory/metabolic ward settings; (2) human studies conducted in field settings; (3) animal studies with experimental periods <1 month; and (4) animal studies with experimental periods >1 month. Out of the 13 studies reporting on consumption, 8 (61.5%) found no significant effect of EF. Seventeen studies reported on anthropometrics, with 11 studies (64.7%) finding no significant effect of EF. Future, adequately powered, studies should examine if other factors (i.e., disease states, physical activity, energy balance and weight status, long-term increased EF) influence the relationship between increased EF and intake and/or anthropometrics.

Keywords: appetite; body weight; eating frequency; food intake; grazing; human and animal models.

Publication types

  • Review