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Decreased thermic effect of food after an irregular vs. regular meal pattern

HR Farshchi, MA Taylor and IA Macdonald


  • Research Background:

This study investigates how irregular meal patterns, as opposed to regular meal patterns, affect energy metabolism in healthy lean women. Understanding this is important for diabetic patients, as meal timing and frequency can influence weight management and overall metabolic health.


  • Study Details: 

The study involved nine healthy lean women who followed either a regular meal pattern (eating six times per day) or an irregular meal pattern (varying between three to nine meals per day). The study assessed the participants' energy expenditure after meals (thermic effect of food), energy intake, and appetite.

  • Key Findings:

  1. Impact on Thermic Effect of Food (TEF): The thermic effect of food was significantly lower after following an irregular meal pattern compared to a regular meal pattern. This suggests that irregular meal patterns may lead to less efficient energy expenditure following meals.

  2. Energy Intake and Appetite: The study found no significant differences in overall energy intake and appetite ratings between the regular and irregular meal patterns. However, there was a tendency for higher energy intake during irregular meal patterns.

  3. No Significant Weight Change: Despite the differences in TEF, the study observed no significant changes in body weight or body fat percentage due to the short duration of the study.

  • What Does This Mean for Diabetic Patients?

    • Regular Meals for Efficient Metabolism: Maintaining a regular meal pattern could be beneficial for more efficient energy expenditure after meals, potentially aiding in weight management.

    • Monitoring Energy Intake: Irregular meal patterns might lead to higher energy intake, so it's important for diabetic patients to monitor their overall calorie consumption.

    • Long-Term Implications: While the study didn’t show immediate effects on weight, the long-term implications of reduced TEF on weight management warrant consideration, especially for those with diabetes.


  • Final Thoughts:  

For diabetic patients, this study underscores the potential metabolic benefits of regular meal patterns. While short-term effects on weight were not observed, the implications of meal regularity on long-term energy metabolism and weight management are significant. Integrating regular meal times into a diabetes management plan, along with consultation with healthcare professionals, could be a beneficial strategy.



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