mealtime habits

Findings of a recent British Journal Of Nutrition cohort study have revealed that undesirable mealtime habits are strongly related to the development of metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.


Metabolic syndrome is defined as a cluster of interconnected physiological, biochemical and metabolic features. Its criteria include the combination of abdominal obesity, high serum LDL cholesterol, low serum HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, high serum glucose levels, insulin resistance, and hypertension.

Prevalence of metabolic syndrome is now increasing due to increased incidence of obesity and sedentary lifestyle, population aging and unhealthy dietary habits exposing patients to atherosclerosis cardiovascular diseases and all-cause mortality rates. On the other hand, insulin resistance is a status of high blood insulin to which the cells do not respond, leading to high blood glucose.

While there is a risk of insulin resistance progressing to diabetes mellitus, these patients are also prone to developing cardiovascular diseases, similar to the risk seen in diabetic patients.

Nutritionists have studied the effect of nutritional content of foods on developing metabolic syndrome. Few studies have demonstrated that the dietary habits of people at mealtimes can be as effective as the nutritional content of consumed foods. The studies evaluating the social and environmental circumstances of mealtimes are of limited number.

mealtime habits

The aim of a new study is to evaluate the effect of mealtime habits on the risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

In a prospective cohort study which was conducted in Mexico, a total number of 956 participants were enrolled in the study after being evaluated to meet the inclusion criteria. The Mealtime Habits Quality scale was used to assess the mealtime circumstances among the study participants. This scale assesses the mealtime circumstances in four criteria of availability of time to eat, distractions while eating, the environmental and social context of eating, and familiar or cultural eating habits. The lower the score, the more undesirable meal time circumstances.

Based on the results, participants with low Mealtime Health Quality scores (MHQ) had 8.8 times greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome comparing to those with high Mealtime Health Quality scores.

Authors have concluded that certain mealtime habits can play a significant role in the developing metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance. Factors like availability of time, distractions while eating, cultural and environmental situations influence this risk. They have recommended that interventions in mealtime habits can significantly reduce the risk of weight gain and metabolic syndrome, and moreover, MHQ score can be used for research in food and healthy eating.


Written By: Nima Makhdami, M.D.

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