Differences in meal patterns and timing with regard to central obesity in the ANIBES Study

Changes in dietary habits and physical activity are essential in the strategies to reduce excess weight. However, it has been observed that not all of these are equally effective, it has even been proposed that some types of diets may increase risk factors associated with obesity. Recent studies suggest that some characteristics of dietary behaviour such as skipping breakfast, eating more of the day’s total energy intake during the evening, higher frequency of meals eaten away from home and a lower number of meals eaten per day, but also snacking between meals, are associated with a higher risk of being overweight or obese.

The aim of this research was to study the association of different meals frequency, as well as time spent on them and of nutrient intake and meal patterns, with abdominal obesity in order to identify the best dietary strategies that can help reduce the prevalence of obesity.

The results of this study show that 54.4 % of the adult female population ate more than 4 meals daily, a figure significantly higher than that observed in adult men (38.8 %). The percentage of men who skipped breakfast, mid-morning snack and mid-afternoon snack was higher than in women. In spite of this, the results found that eating four or more meals daily was associated with reduced likelihood of suffering from abdominal obesity in men , after adjusting for age and energy intake. In the other side, individuals with abdominal obesity more frequently skipped the mid-afternoon snack and spent less time on the mid-morning snack and more time on lunch than those without abdominal obesity.

The results of this work suggest that dietary strategies to reduce the prevalence of abdominal obesity should consider both what we eat and when we do it, and could focus on consume at least four meals daily, with a breakfast containing less than 25 % of total daily energy intake, include a mid-morning and a mid-afternoon snack, which provide at least 15 % of total daily energy intake, have lunch at an appropriate time (about 14.00 hours) and with an energy contribution not exceeding 35 % of total daily energy intake and include the maximum number of foods belonging to the groups of dairy products, cereals and whole grains.

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