Does Eating Late Hinder Losing Weight?
Eating the main meal earlier in the day may assist weight-loss efforts
Health experts are increasingly focused on identifying how to help people lose pounds and keep them off. One active area of research is timing of meals. It turns out that adjusting when you eat may be an important weapon in the battle of the bulge.
Early vs. late eaters
Researchers invited 420 overweight adults from a weight loss clinic in Spain to participate in a study on timing of meals and weight loss success. The study location is important, because in Spain, the main meal of the day is lunch, not dinner. The researchers collected blood samples and daily diet records before and during the 20-week weight-loss intervention.
Participants were classified as early or late eaters, based on when they habitually ate their main meal of the day, which provided about 40% of their total daily calories. Consuming the main meal before 3 p.m. placed a person in the early category; those eating the main meal after 3 p.m. were classified as late eaters.
The weight-loss program consisted of:
After 20 weeks, the researchers discovered that early and late eaters had similar energy intake, dietary composition, estimated energy expenditure, appetite hormones, and sleep duration. Despite having nearly identical diets, compared with late eaters, the early eaters:
The early bird loses the weight
The results of this study suggest eating the main meal earlier in the day may assist weight-loss efforts. These results may not apply to those living in countries in which dinner is the main meal, but still, they point to one more thing we can do that may aid our efforts to reach and maintain a healthy body weight. Here are some others:
(Int J Obes (Lond) 2013; doi:10.1038/ijo.2012.229)
Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.