The more frequently that children eat throughout the day, the less likely they are to be overweight or obese, according to a meta-analysis in Pediatrics.
Researchers examined data from 11 observational studies comprising nearly 19,000 children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years. Overall, those who ate most often were 22% less likely to be overweight or obese than those who ate least often. In analyses stratified by sex, the benefit of frequent eating remained significant in boys but not girls; the researchers note, however, that the analysis among girls was underpowered. Total caloric intake was not provided.
"The beneficial effect of increased eating frequency on insulin metabolism may be a potential biological mechanism," the researchers propose. They call for clinical trials to confirm their findings.