- New research suggests that eating later in the day, starting around noon, may promote obesity.
- Eating all your meals within 10 hours may also have health benefits, according to another new study.
- Making breakfast your biggest meal of the day isn’t a guaranteed health boost, but you might feel less hungry as the day goes on, research shows.
Researchers have provided more evidence that eating earlier in the day might be good for you — and eating all your meals within a 10-hour window might also be healthier.
The takeaways from this latest wave of food research? Eat breakfast and try to limit your meals to a 10 hour window.
A reason to eat earlier in the day? According to a study by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, participants who ate four hours later in the day were hungrier, burned calories at a slower rate, and had body changes that favored fat growth. The research was published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Cell metabolism.
“In this study, we asked, ‘Does the time we eat matter when everything else is consistent? the hospital website. “And we found that eating four hours later made a significant difference to our hunger levels, the way we burn calories after eating, and the way we store fat.”
The researchers asked 16 overweight patients to eat the exact same meals on two schedules: one with meals earlier in the day and another with meals about four hours later in the day. (For example, one participant in the first group might eat around 9 a.m., 1 p.m., and 5 p.m.; the other group at 1 p.m., 5 p.m., and 9 p.m.)
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Participants recorded their hunger and appetite. The researchers collected blood samples, body temperature and energy expenditure levels, and body fat tissue samples from some subjects.
Eating late more than doubles the likelihood of feeling hungry, researchers say. When study participants ate later in the day, they had lower levels of the hormone leptin, which is present when we feel full, the researchers said.
Genetic testing also suggested fat growth accompanied by later eating. Eating late resulted in burning about 60 fewer calories, according to the study.
“We wanted to test the mechanisms that may explain why eating late increases the risk of obesity,” lead author Frank Scheer, director of the medical chronobiology program in Brigham’s division of sleep and circadian disorders, said in a statement. .
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The study is small but was specifically designed to assess the effects of eating schedules on the body. Researchers hope to expand on the findings.
“This study shows the impact of late eating compared to early eating. Here, we isolated these effects by controlling for confounding variables such as calorie intake, physical activity, sleep, and exposure to light, but in real life many of these factors may themselves be influenced by mealtimes,” Scheer said. “In larger-scale studies, where tight control of all these factors is not is not possible, we must at least consider how other behavioral and environmental variables alter these biological pathways underlying obesity risk.”
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Should breakfast be your biggest meal?
If you’re trying to eat earlier in the day, making breakfast your biggest daily meal may not be so important, suggests another study, published in Cell metabolism last month. The researchers asked 30 overweight subjects to follow two four-week diets: one with 45% of the day’s calories in the morning, the other with 45% of the day’s calories at dinner.
Researchers from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and the University of Surrey in England expected that those who ate a large breakfast and a small dinner would burn more calories and lose more weight. Instead, they found no difference in subjects after following both meal patterns.
But those on the busy morning diet reported fewer hunger pains. “We know that appetite control is important for weight loss, and our study suggests that those who consume the most calories in the morning are less hungry,” said one of the study’s authors, Alexandra Johnstone. , professor of nutrition at the University of Aberdeen’s Rowett. Institute, in a press release.
The two complementary and “rigorous” studies in healthy overweight and obese people “show how ‘front-loading’ calories are a beneficial strategy for reducing overall hunger,” said Satchidananda Panda, a professor in the lab of regulatory biology from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. in La Jolla, Calif., USA TODAY said.
He was not involved in front-loading food research studies, but was among the authors of a time-limited feeding study published this week in Cell metabolism.
A 10 hour window to eat?
Your overall meal schedule — and the closeness of meals — might also be worth looking into, according to this study.
Indeed, researchers found that firefighters who ate all of their meals within a 10-hour window significantly reduced bad cholesterol levels, improved mental health, and reduced alcohol consumption by about three drinks per week.
Study subjects who had high blood sugar and blood pressure levels also saw significant improvements, they said.
Researchers from the Salk Institute and the University of California, San Diego followed 137 firefighters from the San Diego Fire Department who were encouraged to follow a Mediterranean diet and used an app to track their diet for three months. Half ate meals within a 10 hour window, the other half within a 2 hour window.
“Our study showed that shift workers with high blood pressure, low blood sugar or low cholesterol can benefit from a simple lifestyle intervention called time-restricted eating,” Panda said in a statement. “It’s not a pill, but a healthy habit that can significantly reduce these three disease risks without any adverse side effects.”
Participants chose any 10-hour window with breakfast within two or more hours of waking up and dinner three or more hours before going to bed on days off, Panda told USA TODAY. . Most chose 8 to 10 a.m. for breakfast; noon to 1:00 p.m. for lunch; and 6 to 8 p.m. for dinner, he said.
“Putting all of this together, it’s safe to say that the general public can try to choose a 10-hour window that will suit their lifestyle for at least 5-6 days a week,” Panda said.
He suggests eating a larger breakfast, preferably at home because it’s generally healthier, then breakfast — “to reduce the post-lunch dip,” he said — and a healthy dinner. “If they choose a window that ends before 8 p.m., they are also likely to reduce their consumption of alcohol and evening/late-night desserts.”
There are certain limitations. “People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, pregnant women, and people taking prescription medications should check with their doctor before beginning any dietary changes, including time-restricted diets,” Panda said.
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.