Impact of the daily meal pattern on energy balance
AbstractThe daily distribution of food intake can influence the regulation of energy balance and, in consequence, the control of body weight. Two aspects of this question must be considered: the daily number of eating occasions and their temporal distribution. Since the 1960s, epidemiological studies have reported an inverse relationship between frequency of eating and body weight, suggesting that a ‘‘nibbling’’ pattern could help to prevent obesity. This notion has later been put into question by the recognition of a high level of dietary underreporting in overweight individuals. In addition, no difference in total daily energy expenditure has been documented as a function of daily meal number. Weight loss is not facilitated by high meal frequency. Snacking in obese subjects is associated with higher energy and fat intake. By contrast, in normal-weight people, snacking does not necessarily lead to increased energy intake, while snacks often contain more carbohydrates and less fat than regular meals. Obese people tend to eat little in the morning and much in the afternoon and the evening. In extreme cases, a ‘‘night-eating syndrome’’ is observed. Understanding the relationship between the circadian distribution of intake and obesity (or resistance to weight loss) seems critical for theoretical as well as clinical reasons. Keywords: energy balance; meal pattern; snacking
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