When you eat could be just as important as what you eat. According to everydayhealth.com, report in the “International Journal of Obesity” on research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Specifically, eating a large lunch later in the day (after 3 p.m.) results in significantly less weight loss than eating lunch before 3 p.m., researchers concluded after studying more than 400 overweight adults for 20 weeks. Participants who ate lunch later also had lower insulin sensitivity, an important risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
The study used data from Spanish participants, and in Spain, lunch is the largest meal of the day, including about 40 percent of total daily calories. So it’s not clear how closely this data would apply to a typical American diet. (Most Americans eat light lunches and larger dinners.) But, said lead researcher Frank Scheer, PhD in a press release, the results lend credence to the diet wisdom to eat breakfast like a king, dinner like a pauper.
Scheer and his colleagues say this is the first large-scale study to demonstrate that the timing of meals affects a diet’s effectiveness. The research team also examined other traditional factors that play a role in weight loss, such as the appetite hormones leptin and ghrelin and sleep. Among these factors, they found no differences between the early and late eaters — suggesting that the time of the midday meal was an independent factor in diet success.
Late-Night Eating and Weight Loss
This is not the first study to demonstrate that the timing of calorie consumption could affect weight loss or even cause weight gain.
It’s commonly believed that eating at night makes you fat, says Jim White, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Although that might not be true if you’re making healthy choices and not eating too close to the time you sleep, he says.
The danger of nighttime eating really occurs when you’re eating extra calories, beyond your daily calorie budget. Plus, at night, body temperature drops and leptin, the hormone that suppresses appetite, rises, creating an ideal environment for weight gain if you do indulge, White said.
“Multiply that with not getting enough sleep and the impact that it has on metabolic hormones and you have a recipe for disaster,” he said. But overall, he believes more research is needed to determine the effects of eating more later in the day.