Effects of 6 vs 3 eucaloric meal patterns on glycaemic control and satiety in people with impaired glucose tolerance or overt type 2 diabetes: A randomized trial

Diabetes Metab. 2018 Jun;44(3):226-234. doi: 10.1016/j.diabet.2018.03.008. Epub 2018 Apr 6.


Background/objectives: The study aimed to compare the effects of two eucaloric meal patterns (3 vs 6 meals/day) on glycaemic control and satiety in subjects with impaired glucose tolerance and plasma glucose (PG) levels 140-199mg/dL at 120min (IGT-A) or PG levels 140-199mg/dL at 120min and >200mg/dL at 30/60/90min post-oral glucose load on 75-g OGTT (IGT-B), or overt treatment-naïve type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Subjects/methods: In this randomized crossover study, subjects with IGT-A (n=15, BMI: 32.4±5.2kg/m2), IGT-B (n=20, BMI: 32.5±5kg/m2) or T2D (n=12, BMI: 32.2±5.2kg/m2) followed a weight-maintenance diet (45% carbohydrates, 20% proteins, 35% fats) in 3 or 6 meals/day (each intervention lasting 12 weeks). Anthropometrics, diet compliance and subjective appetite were assessed every 2 weeks. OGTT and measurements of HbA1c and plasma lipids were performed at the beginning and end of each intervention period.

Results: Body weight and physical activity levels remained stable throughout the study. In T2D, HbA1c and PG at 120min post-OGTT decreased with 6 vs 3 meals (P<0.001 vs P=0.02, respectively). The 6-meal intervention also improved post-OGTT hyperinsulinaemia in IGT-A subjects and hyperglycaemia in IGT-B subjects. In all three groups, subjective hunger and desire to eat were reduced with 6 vs 3 meals/day (P<0.05). There were no differences in HOMA-IR or plasma lipids between interventions.

Conclusion: Although weight loss remains the key strategy in hyperglycaemia management, dietary measures such as more frequent and smaller meals may be helpful for those not sufficiently motivated to adhere to calorie-restricted diets. Our study shows that 6 vs 3 meals a day can increase glycaemic control in obese patients with early-stage T2D, and may perhaps improve and/or stabilize postprandial glucose regulation in prediabetes subjects.

Keywords: Glucose; Impaired glucose tolerance; Insulin; Meal frequency; Type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / diet therapy*
  • Female
  • Glucose Intolerance / blood
  • Glucose Intolerance / diet therapy*
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Male
  • Meals*
  • Middle Aged
  • Postprandial Period / physiology
  • Satiety Response / physiology*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin