Should you be concerned about when you eat?

A well-known saying suggests that timing is everything when it comes to success in life’s pursuits.  The results of a study by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), in collaboration with the University of Murcia (Spain) and Tufts University, suggests that’s also the case when it comes to losing weight. They found that it’s not simply what you eat, but also when you eat, that may help you successfully lose or manage your weight.

To study the role of food timing on weight loss, the researchers studied 420 overweight subjects in Spain during a 20-week weight-loss treatment program. The study subjects were divided into two groups: early eaters and late eaters, according to the timing of their main meal. (In Spain, the main meal is usually lunch, when people may consume as much as 40 percent of total daily calories.) Early eaters ate lunch anytime before 3 p.m. and late eaters, after 3 p.m. The researchers found that late eaters lost significantly less weight than early eaters and experienced a much slower rate of weight loss.

“This is the first large-scale prospective study to demonstrate that the timing of meals predicts weight-loss effectiveness,” said Dr. Frank Scheer, director of the Medical Chronobiology Program and associate neuroscientist at BWH and senior author of 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 researchers found that the number of calories consumed and burned, levels of appetite hormones, and number of hours slept were similar in both late eaters and early eaters, suggesting that meal timing was an important and independent factor in weight loss success. Researchers found that timing of snacks or smaller meals did not play a role in the success of weight loss.

So the next time you’re tempted to skip lunch in favor of a big dinner, you may want to reconsider, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.

When dieting, do you consider the timing of your meals?

- Jamie R

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