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Higher Meal Frequency May Not Reduce Appetite

woman eating from a plate The prevailing opinion is that eating more frequent meals helps to reduce appetite. It stands to reason as you don’t go through long stretches of time between meals. You eat very often and never have a chance of getting hungry.

This is also supported by previous studies, including one from 1999 in which obese men were tested to see whether a higher meal frequency affected their appetite. The results, of that study, showed that an acute reduction in appetite was found in those men who ate more frequently than others.

However, newer studies challenge this conclusion. In the first one I found, a group of overweight and obese men were tested to see what effect a higher consumption of protein and higher meal frequency had on their appetite.

Without going into the details of the study, the results showed that more protein did reduce cravings and appetite. However, the effect of a higher frequecy of meals was marginal at best.

The second study was, in fact, a sort of collective summary of various other appetite related studies. The goal was to take the 3 meals a day routine as the basis of comparison and to see whether eating more or less meals affected appetite and how it did so.

Based on the analysis of those studies, the following findings were discovered:

  1. Eating less than 3 meals each day caused an increase in hunger and would likely results in a higher calorie consumption through snacking.
  2. Eating more than 3 meals was found to yield minimal differences in the appetite of the study groups.

There are some questions that have still gone unanswered. The main one is how the actual quality of food affects appetite along with a higher meal frequency. This is something that I feel deserves more study. However, there is no doubt that the idea of a higher meal frequency as a way to reduce appetite is not supported in some studies and is likely to face further scrutiny in the near future.

Date published: February 24, 2011. Last modified: July 27, 2011


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