Meal Frequency and Health in Adults
Adults should be eating more frequently, it can help reduce the risk of obesity, improve metabolic health, and increase energy expenditure. Obesity is a rising problem around the world, Amy Hutchinson states in her article, “Metabolic impacts of altering meal frequency and timing,” that “39% of adults were overweight, and 13% were obese[, and] If the current rates of obesity continue, projections predict that by 2030, around 1.9 billion adults will be overweight or obese.” With this consistent issue of obesity, and all the other health complications it comes with, a solution must be found. This solution may sound unorthodox, but studies have shown that eating more frequent, balanced meals can promote better metabolic health, lower risk of obesity, and increase the amount of energy you have to spend at a time.
Eating and diet habits vastly vary from lifestyle to lifestyle, as there are a multitude of different factors contributing to how humans eat, and, as humans continue to evolve, so will their eating habits. In her article “Snack frequency: associations with healthy and unhealthy food choices”, Christina Hartmann explains that “Changes in lifestyle and the environment over the last few decades have probably been the most important causes of the overweight epidemic in Western society”, so as society evolves, their diet has to evolve with them or else issues like obesity and metabolic health problems are bound to occur.
Culture is a massive reason why the human species is so diverse, as culture affects every single aspect of your life, including your diet. In his article “Cultural aspects of meals and meal frequency”, Matty Chiva iterates:
The definitions of food intake and frequency play a major role in building up consumers’ perceptions. These various perceptions are multiple (perception of self, of food and its virtues, the rules and moral values of consumption) and finally influence behaviors.
This further illustrates how much of an impact culture has on how humans perceive diet and nutrition, as even the perception of self, a concept seemingly unrelated to food, can have an impact on how people eat.
Finding a way to accommodate every single person’s dietary needs is challenging, but again Hutchinson states in her article that, “the consumption of small, regular meals has frequently been touted as a dietary approach that may limit weight gain”, so although there may not be one universally accepted dietary guideline, there can be loose “rules” to help govern someone to a healthier lifestyle.
There are, however, several studies done that provide insightful information as to how frequently someone should eat. Highlighted in Heather Leidy’s article “The Effect of Eating Frequency on Appetite Control and Food Intake: Brief Synopsis of Controlled Feeding Studies”:
Increased eating frequency is postulated to increase metabolism, reduce hunger, improve glucose and insulin control, and reduce body weight, making it an enticing dietary strategy for weight loss and/or the maintenance of a healthy body weight.
With all of these benefits to an increased balanced meal frequency, people need to begin to realize that this novel thinking could be the beginning of a healthier lifestyle.
Whether or not eating frequency even has a significant role in causing obesity is still up in the air for most people. Is it eating too much, or eating too often the main cause for obesity in adults? Isabel Holmback’s article, “A high eating frequency is associated with an overall healthy lifestyle in middle-aged men and women and reduced likelihood of general and central obesity in men”, answers that with a study that showed:
A low daily eating frequency was associated with smoking, higher alcohol consumption, and lower leisure-time physical activity. Eating three or fewer meals per day was also associated with increased likelihood of general and central obesity in men when adjusting for total energy intake, lifestyle and dietary factors.
So not only does eating more frequently increase your overall health and reduce risk of obesity, it also helps to eliminate other unhealthy lifestyle choices such as drinking too much, smoking, and stagnation.
Holmback then goes on to state in the same article that his studies suggest that, “The present study suggests that a high daily eating frequency is associated with a healthy lifestyle and dietary pattern in both men and women, and a reduced likelihood of general and central obesity in men”, so not only does increased meal frequency help to eradicate unhealthy decisions, but it also helps to promote a healthy body and lifestyle with obesity prevention and more energy usage throughout the day.
Promoting healthy lifestyle choices and creating healthy habits for yourself are vital in living a happy healthy life. To make these choices, a person will obviously need the energy to do so. This is important because France Bellisle’s article, “Meal frequency and energy balance”, states that, “studies suggest that the thermic effect of feeding is higher when an isoenergetic test load is divided into multiple small meals”, meaning that when divided up into multiple smaller meals, your body can more properly use this energy, and it will not go to waste as it would if one ate fewer larger meals.
With benefits such as increased energy expenditure, having more energy throughout the day, increased metabolic health, and preventative measures for obesity, everyone needs to be eating multiple, smaller, healthy, and balanced meals throughout the day, rather than a few large meals.
Bellisle, F., McDevitt, R., & Prentice, A. M. (2007, March 9). “Meal frequency and energy balance” British Journal of Nutrition. Cambridge Core. Retrieved November 8, 2022.
Chiva, M. (2007, March 9). Cultural aspects of meals and meal frequency: British Journal of Nutrition. Cambridge Core. Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/cultural-aspects-of-meals-and-meal-frequency/EA11E4A542A24FF94A468DA5971648B3
Hartmann, C., Siegrist, M., K. van der Horst, K. (2016). Snack frequency: associations with healthy and unhealthy food choices Public Health Nutr. from
Holmbäck, I., Ericson, U., Gullberg, B., & Wirfält, E. (2010, May 26). A high eating frequency is associated with an overall healthy lifestyle in middle-aged men and women and reduced likelihood of general and Central Obesity in men: British Journal of Nutrition. Cambridge Core. Retrieved November 8, 2022, from https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/high-eating-frequency-is-associated-with-an-overall-healthy-lifestyle-in-middleaged-men-and-women-and-reduced-likelihood-of-general-and-central-obesity-in-men/A0A079076CF60DD0E918345DC33DD8AA
Hutchison, A. T., & Heilbronn, L. K. (2015, July 29). Metabolic impacts of altering meal frequency and timing – does when we eat matter? Biochimie. Retrieved October 18, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0300908415002333Leidy, H. J., & Campbell, W. W. (2010, December 1). The Effect of Eating Frequency on Appetite Control and Food Intake: Brief Synopsis of Controlled Feeding Studies. Academic.oup.com. Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/141/1/154/4630606