Original Communication

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2004) 58, 1071–1077. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601935

Regular meal frequency creates more appropriate insulin sensitivity and lipid profiles compared with irregular meal frequency in healthy lean women

H R Farshchi1, M A Taylor1 and I A Macdonald1

1Centre for Integrated Systems Biology and Medicine, Institute of Clinical Research, School of Biomedical Sciences, Queen's Medical Centre, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

Correspondence: HR Farshchi, E 72, School of Biomedical Sciences, Queen's Medical Centre, Clifton Boulevard, Nottingham, NG7 2UH UK. E-mail: mbxhrf@nottingham.ac.uk

Received 6 August 2003; Revised 16 October 2003; Accepted 29 October 2003.



Objective: To investigate the impact of irregular meal frequency on circulating lipids, insulin, glucose and uric acid concentrations which are known cardiovascular risk factors.

Design: A randomised crossover dietary intervention study.

Setting: Nottingham, UK—Healthy free-living women.

Subjects: A total of nine lean healthy women aged 18–42 y recruited via advertisement.

Intervention: A randomised crossover trial with two phases of 14 days each. In Phase 1, subjects consumed their normal diet on either 6 occasions per day (regular) or by following a variable meal frequency (3–9 meals/day, irregular). In Phase 2, subjects followed the alternative meal pattern to that followed in Phase 1, after a 2-week (wash-out) period. Subjects were asked to come to the laboratory after an overnight fast at the start and end of each phase. Blood samples were taken for measurement of circulating glucose, lipids, insulin and uric acid concentrations before and for 3 h after consumption of a high-carbohydrate test meal.

Results: Fasting glucose and insulin values were not affected by meal frequency, but peak insulin and AUC of insulin responses to the test meal were higher after the irregular compared to the regular eating patterns (P<0.01). The irregular meal frequency was associated with higher fasting total (P<0.01) and LDL (P<0.05) cholesterol.

Conclusion: The irregular meal frequency appears to produce a degree of insulin resistance and higher fasting lipid profiles, which may indicate a deleterious effect on these cardiovascular risk factors.

Sponsorship: The Ministry of Health and Medical Education, IR Iran.


irregular meal pattern, regular meal frequency, insulin, lipids, cardiovascular risk



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