Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size
A
A
A

Frequent Eating in Kids Tied to Less Weight Gain

But this won't hold true with unhealthy foods, expert warns

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Amy Norton

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 8 (HealthDay News) -- In what may seem a surprising finding, kids in a new study who ate more often over the course of a day were less likely to be overweight than their peers who ate the traditional three squares.

Looking at 11 past studies, Greek researchers found that overall, kids -- particularly boys -- who typically dined more than three times a day weighed less than those who had three or fewer meals. And they were 22 percent less likely to be overweight or obese.

The findings, reported online April 8 and in the May print issue of Pediatrics, are in line with the theory that smaller meals, spaced out over the day, may aid weight control.

The big caveat, however, is that the findings do not prove cause and effect, said Alison Field, an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a staff scientist at Boston Children's Hospital.

Field, who was not involved in the research, said the main issue is that all 11 studies were conducted at just one point in time. So it's impossible to know whether the children's eating habits came before their extra pounds. Some kids may have started eating less often after becoming overweight.

You need studies where kids are followed over time to know which came first, Field said. And even then, it can be hard to disentangle whether it's the eating frequency that matters.

"People who eat frequently may choose different foods compared with people who eat less often," Field said. "Is it the eating frequency, or what you're eating?"

Registered dietitian Connie Diekman agreed that the study "does not provide conclusive evidence." Still, other studies have suggested that smaller, more frequent meals may help control weight gain, according to Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis.

"I view this study as one more piece in our understanding about meal frequency and weight, but not of itself an answer to, what do we tell consumers?" said Diekman, who did not work on the study.

For the review, Panagiota Kaisari and colleagues at Harokopio University in Athens combined the results of 11 studies involving nearly 19,000 kids aged 2 to 19. The studies typically compared kids who ate more than three meals per day with those who ate less often. Some studies counted snacks as "meals," while others did not.

With all the findings combined, kids who ate more often were less likely to be overweight. When the researchers took a closer look, though, the link seemed to hold true only for boys, and not girls.

It's not clear why girls and boys differed, according to Kaisari's team. And there could be other reasons that boys who eat frequently weigh less.

Today on WebMD

family walking on the beach
Slideshow
two boys in a swing
Article
 
mistakes_parents_make_with_toddlers_2.jpg
Article
woman with cleaning products
Slideshow
 
mother and daughter talking
Tool
child brushing his teeth
Slideshow
 
Sipping hot tea
Slideshow
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Build a Fitter Family Challenge – Get your crew motivated to move.
Feed Your Family Better Challenge - Tips and tricks to healthy up your diet.
Sleep Better Challenge - Snooze clues for the whole family.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
Article
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
 
tissue box
Quiz
Child with adhd
Slideshow