5 meals a day keeps obesity away for teens

While some health experts advocate three meals a day and others say eating five is the key, adolescents who have a genetic predisposition to obesity should probably stick with the latter plan, according to new research.

A Finnish study that included more than 4,000 participants showed that five meals a day – breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks – was linked to body mass index (BMI) that was no higher than BMI in healthy control teens.

Health risks reduced

The study, which followed participants until the age of 16, aimed to identify lifestyle factors associated with obesity – and to determine how meal frequency could help or hinger this progression.

Results showed that eating five regular meals each day decreased a teen's chance of becoming overweight or obese, regardless of gender, and that it helped reduce risk of abdominal obesity in boys. Skipping breakfast was associated with higher BMI and waist circumference.

Parents play role

The study also confirmed what other research suggests about the role of parental obesity and its effect on offspring. Researchers found that obesity risk was "strikingly high" in adolescents whose parents both had a BMI of 25 or more throughout the 16-year follow-up period of the study.

"These findings emphasize the importance of taking an early whole-family approach to childhood obesity prevention," said Anne Jääskeläinen, MHSc, who presented the results in her doctoral thesis at the University of Eastern Finland. "Furthermore, it is important to be aware that the effects of predisposing genotypes can be modified by lifestyle habits such as regular meal frequency."

Source: Science Daily

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