Can eating 5 meals a day reduce your child’s risk for obesity?

The answer is “Yes!” based on a 2013 Northern Finland Birth Cohort study of adolescents aged 16 years.  The data collection on the population began prenatally up until the age of 16 years.

Previously, the results of a study on the same Finnish population showed that environmental factors such as physical activity could modify the effect of common obesity-susceptibility gene variants.  This means that those children who carried the genes associated with the risk for obesity could stop their predisposition to obesity by modifying their lifestyle behaviors. The researchers also showed in a previous study that eating 5 meals a day reduced abdominal obesity in children.

Specifically, for this current study,  two meal patterns where looked at:  those that ate 5 meals per day and those that ate 4 meals or less per day on the relation between obesity-related genotypes and body mass index (BMI) among the 16 year olds.   A genetic risk score (a multiple-locus indicator based on eight obesity-susceptibility loci) and a separate analysis of the effects of two well-established obesity loci, FTO and MC4R, on BMI were analyzed.

Results showed:

  1. A 5 meal a day pattern (including breakfast) decreased the predisposition to increasing BMI
  2. Those that skipped breakfast had a greater increase in BMI

I loved reading up on this study because it shows that even though you may be born with a set of genetic predispositions to obesity you still have the power to be at a healthy weight.  And it starts in childhood.  What power parents have to influence their kids and impact their health!!  Interested in the effect of maternal weigth gain and obesity risk? Click here

Source: PLOS One, September 2013 | Volume 8 | Issue 9 | e73802: Jaaskelainen A, Schwab U, Kolehmainen M, Kaakinen M, Savolainen MJ, et al. (2013) Meal Frequencies Modify the Effect of Common Genetic Variants on Body Mass Index in Adolescents of the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1986. PLoS ONE 8(9): e73802. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0073802