The association between meal regularity and weight loss among women in commercial weight loss programs

Nutr Res Pract. 2022 Apr;16(2):205-216. doi: 10.4162/nrp.2022.16.2.205. Epub 2021 Jul 5.


Background/objectives: While many obesity studies have pointed out the importance of meal regularity, few have conducted empirical analyses using data from food diaries. We examined the association between meal regularity (i.e., meal time regularity [MTR] and calorie intake regularity [CIR]) and weight loss.

Subjects/methods: We collected food diary data from 637 women who had participated in commercial weight loss programs for 28-168 days (4-24 weeks). This study defined "meal regularity" in terms of two concepts: MTR and CIR. MTR refers to how regularly people eat their meals (i.e., at certain times each day), whereas CIR refers to how regularly people consume a certain amount of calories at each meal. We conducted multiple regression analyses.

Results: MTR (model 1: β = -2,576.526, P < 0.001; model 2: β = -1511.447, P < 0.05; model 3: β = -1,721.428, P < 0.05) and CIR (model 1: β = -1,231.551, P < 0.01; model 2: β = -2,082.353, P < 0.001; model 3: β = -1,343.490, P < 0.01) turned out to be significant determinants of the amount of weight loss in breakfast, lunch, and dinner contexts. While meal regularity (i.e., MTR and CIR) was significantly associated with weight loss, daily calorie intake from meals was not significantly associated with the amount of weight loss (model 1: β = 0.13, P > 0.05; model 2: β = 0.11, P > 0.05; model 3: β = 0.14, P > 0.05). Subjects who consumed an equal amount of calories per meal throughout the day lost more weight than those who did not (model 4: β = -3,675.51, P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Eating each meal (i.e., breakfast, lunch, and dinner) at a certain time every day may increase weight loss success. Also, consuming the same amount of calories at each meal may help weight loss success.

Keywords: Dietary habits; health behavior; mealtimes; obesity; weight loss.