Adolescents who have more than four meals a day are thinner

June 20, 2012
Eating more than four scheduled meals a day or not eating too fast are associated with lower body fat levels. Credit: Stuart Pilbrow

A study carried out in Spain reveals that certain healthy habits, like eating more than four times a day or not eating too fast, are associated with lower body fat levels independently of exercise habits during free time.

The key to preventing obesity is in keeping up and this is not a new concept. But, a new study headed by the Institute of and Technology and Nutrition (ICTAN) of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) goes one step further.

The study shows that certain , like eating more than four scheduled meals a day or not eating too fast, are associated with lower independently of during free time.

Data on fat levels were obtained by taking the sum of six skin folds and the waist circumference of 1,978 adolescents (1,017 girls) between the ages of 13 and 18 years from five Spanish cities (Granada, Madrid, Murcia, Santander and Zaragoza). The role that during free time plays on fat levels was also assessed.

"To clarify the effects of on obesity it is vital to study them along with other such as physical activity," explained to SINC Sonia Gómez Martínez, lead author of the study and researcher at the ICTAN's department of Metabolism and Nutrition.

The young men were taller, weighed more, had a larger , and ate faster during meals. However, according to the study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, their accumulated fat rate was lower.

Furthermore, the authors observed that eating breakfast on a daily basis is especially beneficial in the case of young men who do not do any exercise since those who skipped this meal showed higher body fat values.

Gómez Martínez stated that "the results obtained have shown that one in every four girls and one in every three boys in Spain are overweight or obese." However, only 18.5% of the boys did not do some form of sport as opposed to 48.5% of the girls.

Sexual maturity and the increase in size and weight determine the nutritional needs of adolescents, who grow by approximately 20% of their adult height and 50% of their muscle and bone mass during puberty.

Such processes require a high amount of energy and nutrients and so the diet should be designed to meet such requirements. During adolescence, the three most important minerals are calcium, iron and zinc.

Whereas calcium is essential for bone growth, iron is involved in haematologic tissue (red blood cells) and muscle tissue growth, and zinc plays a part is bone and muscle growth. It is also linked to hair and nail growth.

Dietary recommendations for adolescents include drinking three or four glasses of milk or yoghurt for calcium, vitamin D and riboflavin; five or more portions of fruit and vegetables; two portions of lean protein foods; six to twelve portions of cereal, pasta, rice and potatoes; and eat foods rich in fat and sugar in moderation.

Explore further: Study examines associations between TV viewing, eating by school children

More information: Sonia Gómez-Martínez, David Martínez-Gómez, Fátima Pérez de Heredia, Javier Romeo, Magdalena Cuenca-Garcia, Miguel Martín-Matillas, Manuel Castillo, Juan-Pablo Rey-López, Germán Vicente-Rodriguez, Luis Moreno y Ascensión Marcos. "Eating Habits and Total and Abdominal Fat in Spanish Adolescents: Influence of Physical Activity. The AVENA Study". Journal of Adolescent Health 50 (2012) 403.

Related Stories

Study examines associations between TV viewing, eating by school children

May 7, 2012
Television viewing and unhealthy eating habits in U.S. adolescents appear to be linked in a national survey of students in the fifth to 10 th grades, according to a report published in the May issue of Archives of Pediatrics ...

Recommended for you

Federal snack program does not yield expected impacts, researchers find

August 17, 2017
A well-intentioned government regulation designed to offer healthier options in school vending machines has failed to instill better snacking habits in a sample of schools in Appalachian Virginia, according to a study by ...

In a nutshell: Walnuts activate brain region involved in appetite control

August 17, 2017
Packed with nutrients linked to better health, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting feelings of fullness. Now, in a new brain imaging study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) ...

Energy dense foods may increase cancer risk regardless of obesity status

August 17, 2017
Diet is believed to play a role in cancer risk. Current research shows that an estimated 30% of cancers could be prevented through nutritional modifications. While there is a proven link between obesity and certain types ...

Technology is changing Generation smartphone, and not always for the better

August 16, 2017
It's easy to imagine some graybeard long ago weighing in on how this new generation, with all its fancy wheels, missed out on the benefits of dragging stuff from place to place.

The environmental injustice of beauty

August 16, 2017
Women of color have higher levels of beauty-product-related chemicals in their bodies compared to white women, according to a commentary published today in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The authors say ...

Heavily used pesticide linked to breathing problems in farmworkers' children

August 15, 2017
Elemental sulfur, the most heavily used pesticide in California, may harm the respiratory health of children living near farms that use the pesticide, according to new research led by UC Berkeley.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.