When You Eat As Important As What
January 29, 2013

On A Diet? Consider When You Eat, Along With What

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Researchers wrote recently in the International Journal of Obesity timing is a necessary factor when considering a weight-loss plan.

Most weight-loss plans essentially come down to just calorie counting and exercising. However, the latest research shows timing should be part of that consideration.

"This is the first large-scale prospective study to demonstrate that the timing of meals predicts weight-loss effectiveness," Frank Scheer, PhD, MSc, director of the Medical Chronobiology Program and associate neuroscientist at Brigham and Women´s Hospital, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and senior author on the study, said in a statement. "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 researchers studied 420 overweight study participants who followed a 20-week weight-loss treatment program in Spain.

During the study, participants were divided into two groups, including early-eaters and late-eaters, according to the self-selected timing of the main meal. The meal consisted of 40 percent of the total daily calories that were consumed in a day. Early eaters ate lunch any time before 3:00 p.m., while late eaters after 3:00 p.m.

Scientists found 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, which is a risk factor for diabetes.

The team found timing of the other smaller meals did not play a role in the success of weight loss. However, the latest eaters also consumed fewer calories during breakfast and were more likely to skip breakfast altogether.

Researchers looked at traditional factors that play a role in weight loss, such as total calorie intake and expenditure, appetite hormones leptin and gherkin, and sleep duration. They found no differences between both groups, suggesting 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" Marta Garaulet, PhD, professor of Physiology at the University of Murcia Spain, and lead author of the study, said in a statement. "Novel therapeutic strategies should incorporate not only the caloric intake and macronutrient distribution, as it is classically done, but also the timing of food."