Well, today's SuppVersity article will not be able to answer all of these questions in a "once and for all" fashion, but being based on the latest systematic review by Quatela et al. (2016), it will still give you a good overview of the individual effects of differing energy intakes, macronutrient compositions, and eating patterns of meals on what scientists call your DIT, i.e. your "diet-induced thermogenesis" (DIT) in response to a std. meal.
The previously hinted at review comprised 26 papers - all with a randomized crossover design capable of comparing the effects of two or more eating events on DIT. And here's what the authors found:
Higher energy intake increased DIT; in a mixed model meta-regression, for every 100 kJ increase in energy intake, DIT increased by 1.1 kJ/h (p < 0.001 | Quatela. 2016).
There's, for example, the 1990 study by Kinabo and Durnin who found no effect of the macronutrient composition of the test meals they served either high-carbohydrate-low-fat (HCLF) with 70%, 19% and 11% of the energy content from carbohydrate, fat and protein, respectively, or a low-carbohydrate-high–fat (LCHF) with 24%, 65% and 11% to sixteen adult, non–obese female subjects.
|Figure 1: Studies like Kinabo & Durnin (1999) show that low carb vs. low fat does not make a difference - what does matter for DIT (and that's statistically and practically sign.) is the total energy intake per meal.|
|There's a 50% difference in the thermogenic response to a std. meal (720kcal; the other meal was 35% of the RMR and thus not identical for both groups) in lean vs. obese men - in fact, the obese don't show any stat. sign. DIT (Segal. 1990).|
Meals with a high protein or carbohydrate content had a higher DIT than high fat, although this effect was not always significant (Quatela. 2016).
The next take home message takes us back to my claim from the introduction: you all will have heard about the beneficial metabolic effects of high protein breakfasts. And in contrast to what the take home message says about carbohydrates, the evidence that high(er) protein intakes yield higher levels of diet-induced thermogenesis has been found consistently (see green lines in the Table 1) .
|Table 1: Colored version of an overview from the review by Quatela, et al. (2016) - yellow = study shows advantage for CHOs; gray = study didn't find effect of high carb vs. high fat; green = study shows advantage for protein.|
What should also be mentioned, though, is the fact that there's ZERO evidence to the opposite, i.e. an acute increase in thermogenesis to high fat intakes, when the meal size / energy content is standardized and the protein content is kept the same... and no, the study by Riggs et al. (2007) is not an example that this statement was wrong. After all, the "high fat" group in Riggs' study also received increased amounts of protein. The effects on DIT the scientists observed may thus well be ascribed to the extra 10% protein, not to the increased fat and/or reduced carb content.
You better don't starve yourself either! While the previous red box has thought you about the ill consequences being obese will have on your body's ability to burn off extra calories, the previously mentioned study by Riggs et al. shows that being too thin, i.e. underweight (starved), appears to have the same effect. In their study a higher protein intake lead to an increase in DIT only in the normal- yet not in the under- and overweight women; and that the exact same lack of thermogenesis can be observed in weight-reduced formerly obese subjects has been observed by Schutz et al. (1894) more than 40 years ago.Simply distinguishing between calories and macros, alone, however, is not sufficient to predict the real-world DIT effect of a given meal. This (hopefully) unsurprising revelation takes us right to the last two take home messages that relate to the DIT effect of certain micronutrients and the importance of meal frequency.
Meals with medium chain triglycerides, and meals high in PUFA had a significantly higher DIT than other fats (meta-analysis, p = 0.002 | Quatela. 2016).
Yes, it is true MCT oils are not just rapidly metabolized, there's also good evidence that they can increase the diet-induced thermogenesis in mouse and, more importantly, man (Kasai. 2002a,b; Clegg. 2013 | discussed => here).
|Figure 2: The thermogenic effect of a meal does also depend on the type of fat in it (Casas-Agustench. 2009)|
Consuming a meal as a single bolus eating event compared to multiple small meals or snacks was associated with a significantly higher DIT (meta-analysis, p = 0.02 | Quatela. 2016).
The last of our four take home messages is one you have read in previous SuppVersity articles about the advantages and disadvantages of fasting and/or a lower meal frequency, before. If you compare the effects of consuming a standardized meal as a bolus event versus splitting the same meal into two (Kinabo. 1990), three (Vaz. 1995), four (Allirot. 2013) or six (Tai. 1991) smaller equal meals or snacks to be consumed throughout the morning, the bolus administration will always produce the highest thermogenic response.
|Figure 3: Mean differences in DIT between bolus vs. frequent smaller meals (e.g. snacking | Quatela. 2016)|
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