Maybe it's time to abandon the concept of three square meals a day? New research out of Finland has found adolescents who eat five meals daily — breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks — are less likely to suffer from obesity.
The results of the study — involving more than 4,000 participants whose families made a concerted effort to follow the regular dietary schedule — held true even among those with a genetic predisposition to obesity.
"These findings emphasize the importance of taking an early whole-family approach to childhood obesity prevention," said Anne Jääskeläinen, MHSc, who presented the results in her doctoral thesis at the University of Eastern Finland. "Furthermore, it is important to be aware that the effects of predisposing genotypes can be modified by lifestyle habits such as regular meal frequency."
For the study, researchers tracked participants from birth to age 16, with the goal of identifying early-life risk factors associated with obesity and dietary habits. According to the results, boys and girls who followed a five-meal pattern had a reduced risk of overweight and obesity and overweight.
In addition, the five-meal pattern appeared to thwart obesity in those with a genetic propensity to be overweight. The researchers also noted skipping breakfast was associated with greater body mass index (BMI) and waist size.
The researchers' findings were published in the International Journal of Obesity, International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases, and the Public Library of Science publication PLOS One.
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