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Eating patterns in relation to body weight and blood lipids

Yunsheng Ma, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Eating patterns, which describe the temporal distribution of eating across the 24-hour day, meal size, and meal location, may influence body weight and such biochemical indices as blood cholesterol and sugar levels. We analyzed dietary, anthropometric and blood lipid data from 499 participants in the Seasonal Variation of Blood Cholesterol Levels Study (SEASONS) to classify eating patterns and to examine the association of eating patterns with obesity and blood lipids. Three 24-hour dietary recalls, anthropometric data, and blood lipids measurement were collected at each quarter over a one-year period (total of five measurements including baseline). Of the two methods commonly used to define a meal, self-report was in close agreement with Skinner's definition, and appeared to provide the most convenient method to process eating patterns data. A majority of participants (82%) consumed 3–4 meals per day. A relatively small percentage (3.6%) of subjects frequently skipped breakfast. Meal size varied by day of the week, age, and gender. On average, subjects ate 18.9% of breakfasts, 53.5% of lunches, and 19.6% of dinners away from home. Data were averaged for the 5 measurement points and a cross-sectional analysis was conducted to investigate the association of eating patterns with obesity and blood cholesterol levels. Results from our study indicate that a greater number of eating episodes each day was associated with a lower prevalence of obesity. In contrast, skipping breakfast was associated with increased prevalence of obesity, as was increasing the proportion of either breakfast or dinner eating away from home. The results from lipid analysis do not support the hypothesis that the number of eating episodes per day is associated with total blood cholesterol. On the other hand, the results of our study suggest that increased frequency of meals eaten away from home was positively associated with mean total blood cholesterol concentration. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that increasing daily number of eating episodes and eating breakfast may help maintain appropriate body weight and that eating breakfast or dinner away from home may increase the risk of obesity and hyperlipidemia. Further investigation of these associations is warranted.

Subject Area

Biostatistics|Public health

Recommended Citation

Ma, Yunsheng, "Eating patterns in relation to body weight and blood lipids" (2002). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3056370.