From: Allison Winter, ENN
Published January 29, 2013 09:41 AM

Timing of Meals May Influence Weight-loss

For anyone trying to lose weight, one common suggestion is never eat after 7:00 pm. But why? Apparently if you eat food close to your bedtime, it will not have enough time to burn off and is more likely to be stored as fat. This recommendation can now be backed by new research that suggests weight-loss plans should not only focus on what we eat, but when we eat.

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Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital, along with the University of Murcia and Tufts University explain that the timing of our meals can influence our ability to shed pounds.

"This is the first large-scale prospective study to demonstrate that the timing of meals predicts weight-loss effectiveness," said Frank Scheer, PhD, MSc, director of the Medical Chronobiology Program and associate neuroscientist at BWH, and senior author on this study. "Our results indicate that late eaters displayed a slower weight-loss rate and lost significantly less weight than early eaters, suggesting that the timing of large meals could be an important factor in a weight loss program."

The study involved 420 overweight participants who followed a 20-week weight-loss treatment program in Spain. These participants were divided into early-eaters and late-eaters (those who ate lunch before 3 p.m. and those who ate lunch after 3 p.m.) The researchers chose lunchtime as the focus for the study because in this Mediterranean culture, 40% of the total daily calories a person eats are consumed during this meal.

As a result, researchers found that late-eaters lost significantly less weight than early-eaters, and displayed a much slower rate of weight-loss. Late-eaters also had a lower estimated insulin sensitivity, a risk factor for diabetes. They also found that the late eaters also consumed fewer calories during breakfast and were more likely to skip breakfast altogether, another no-no in weight loss programs.

While weight-loss can be affected by other factors, researchers determined that total calorie intake and expenditure, appetite hormones, and sleep duration did not vary between groups, therefore suggesting that the timing of the meal was an important and independent factor in weight loss success.

"This study emphasizes that the timing of food intake itself may play a significant role in weight regulation" explains Marta Garaulet, PhD, professor of Physiology at the University of Murcia Spain, and lead author of the study. "Novel therapeutic strategies should incorporate not only the caloric intake and macronutrient distribution, as it is classically done, but also the timing of food."

The study was published today in the International Journal of Obesity.

Read more at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Mealtime image via Shutterstock.

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