Journal of Nutrition and Dietetic Practice


The Effects a Traditional Meal Pattern vs. Small Frequent Meals has on Body Composition in Overweight and Obese Adults: A Systematic Review

Author(s): Lauren Windisch, Jeanette Andrade

Objective: Globally, adult obesity continues to rise. An effective method to maintain weight loss is by consumption of small frequent meals. However, discrepancies exist within the literature about the number of meals that result in weight loss. Thus, this systematic review examined the effects of consuming a traditional meal pattern versus small frequent meals on body composition in overweight and obese adults. 
Design and Methods: Articles were extracted from three databases: Academic Search Ultimate, PubMed, and CINAHL Plus using key words such as “isocaloric meals”, “small frequent meals” and “adult overweight/obesity”. A 9-point inclusion criteria that included: randomized controlled trials, overweight/obese adults aged 18 years and older, consumption of traditional and small frequent meals, and outcomes that included body composition (e.g. BMI kg/m2, body fat percentage, waist circumference) aided in extraction of articles. Data extraction and evaluation of the articles was assessed using the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Based Manual. 
Results: A total of 1,486 articles were obtained. Six articles met the inclusion criteria. Over the short-term period, less than 12 months, results showed that regardless of the meals consumed (<5 or >5) adults had a significant reduction in their BMI and fat mass when participating in nutrition education and physical activity compared to adults who consumed >5 small-meals per day and did not participate in nutrition education and physical activity. 
Conclusions: This systematic review provides evidence that individuals who consume small frequent meals with the combination of exercise and nutrition and/or behavioral education reduces overall body composition compared to individuals who did not participate in exercise or education regardless of the number of meals consumed.

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