Relationship between meal frequency and the body mass index in adolescents
Obesity has become one of the major lifestyle challenges facing human beings today. Obesity in human beings is associated with various problems including lifestyle diseases such as blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and poor quality of life. Childhood and adolescent obesity has been on increase at higher rates than in adults and this has raised serious public health concerns. Human nutrition has been shown to be one of the major causes of obesity in most parts of the world. Identifying ways of preventing obesity has becomes a key public health goal especially in developed countries where the problem of obesity is most severe. Therefore, research has focused on how human nutrition can be altered in order to lower obesity. In particular, the metabolism of the human body and the frequency of meals has attracted significant attraction in the recent past. Understanding the relationship if any between meal patterns and weight changes can be useful in preventing obesity (Franko et al., 2008).
In one study, Frank et al. (2008) investigated whether meal frequency was related to body mass index among adolescent girls aged 9-19 years. At baseline, there were 1,209 black and 1,166 white girls enrolled in a National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study. Data on three-day food diaries as well as height and weight of the girls was taken at annual in-person visits. Meal frequency was determined from a 3-day food records of participants. The study findings showed that on average, the girls who ate more than three meals per day had lower body mass indices than those who consumed 3 meals only. The conclusion drawn from this study was that meal frequency had a direct relationship to BMI and should, therefore, be explored when developing programs for obesity prevention. People who consume a few meals are at a higher risk of obesity compared to those who consume higher number of meals. Higher meal frequency was postulated to have metabolic advantages that help to lower BMI and obesity (Frank et al., 2008)
The findings of Frank et al. (2008) were corroborated in a later study conducted in 2013 at the University of Eastern Finland. In this study evaluating the correlation between meal frequency and adolescent obesity, it was showed that five regular meals daily significantly reduced the risk of obesity in adolescents. The population-based study involving over 4,000 participants was conducted by collecting data from participants from birth up to the age 16. The aim of the study was to identify the obesity risk factors as well as the association with meal frequency and obesity. The results indicated that people who fed on a regular pattern of five meals had reduced risk of being overweight and obesity for both sexes. The study also found that skipping breakfast had an impact of increased risk of obesity and higher BMI (University of Eastern Finland, 2013).
Obesity is a condition of high accumulation of fat in the body and may result in life-threatening conditions such as heart disease and obesity. It is evident that higher frequency of meals could reduce the risk of obesity among adolescents. This may be due to the metabolic benefits associated with regular eating habits. Therefore, obesity prevention programs should focus on educating patients and the public of the need for regular and higher frequency meals as well as the disadvantages of skipping meals as a way of reducing weight.
Franko, D. L., Striegel-Moore, R. H. Thompson, D., Affenito, S. G., Schreiber, G B., Daniels, S. R. and Crawford, P. B. (2008). The relationship between meal frequency and body mass index in black and white adolescent girls: more is less. International Journal of Obesity 32, 23–29. Retrieved May 30, 2015 from:
University of Eastern Finland. (2013). Five regular meals a day reduce obesity risk among adolescents. Science Daily. Retrieved May 30, 2015 from: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131003095450.htm