Associations Between Weight Change and Meal Frequency, Breakfast Consumption, and Alcohol Intake in College Students

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Virginia Tech


Objective: To determine if weight gain in college subjects is associated with meal frequency, breakfast consumption, breakfast type, and alcohol intake over one year of college. Secondary aims were to determine whether BMI and body fat percent are associated with breakfast consumption and type as well as meal frequency.

Design: A longitudinal observational study. Health history, work schedule and sleep patterns were recorded. Subjects fasted overnight and height, weight, skin fold measurements, waist, and hip measurements were taken. Two seven day food and activity records were self recorded in September 2005 and in April of 2006.

Subjects: One-thousand fifty college students enrolled in freshman level foods and nutrition or personal health courses in fall 2005 were invited to participate in the study; 507 agreed to participate in the study.

Main Outcome Measures: Weight change, meal frequency, number of breakfasts per week, breakfast type, and amount of alcohol consumed were analyzed. Weight change by breakfast category was also analyzed.

Statistical analyses: Diet records were entered into Nutritionist Pro™ for nutrient analysis. Associations between weight change and meal frequency, breakfast consumption, and alcohol intake in college students were analyzed using independent t-test and analysis of variance (ANOVA).

Results: Two-hundred and thirty subjects completed the study. Subjects ate more breakfasts per week in September (148.5 ± 32.5) compared to April (149.6 ± 32.5, p > .05). Non-breakfast eaters gained slightly more weight than breakfast eaters (p = .099). Similar results were found for meal frequency and weight change. Those who consumed more meals per day gained less weight compared to those who ate 4 or fewer meals per day (p = .206). Non drinkers gained significantly more weight than heavy drinkers (p = .004).

Conclusion: Although significant associations between breakfast consumption, meal frequency and weight change were not found, results from this study suggest that increasing breakfast consumption as well as meal frequency may be beneficial in reducing the amount of weight gained over time. Although non-drinkers gained significantly more weight than heavy drinkers, more studies are warranted to investigate this finding.

Application: This study strengthens the literature on meal frequency and breakfast consumption as they are associated with changes in body weight. The study was also the first of our knowledge to assess these associations in a college setting. Based on these findings, more studies are warranted to determine whether the associations between weight changes and meal frequency as well as breakfast consumption and breakfast type are strongly correlated when a larger and more diverse population base is used.



Breakfast Conusmption, Weight Change, Alcohol Intake, College Student, Meal Frequency