A recent study purports that having dinner early, or skipping it entirely, is the key to weight loss. But is it true?
A new test, conducted on humans for the first time in New Orleans has found that eating a day’s last meal as early as 2pm – or skipping that meal altogether – may increase the body’s ability to burn fat and reduce hunger swings.
By keeping to a diet of early time-restricted feeding, or eTRF, participants in the study ate all meals between 8am and 2pm, then nothing again until the next morning.
The research, funded by an Obesity Society Early Career Research Grant, shows that eating dinner early, or even skipping dinner, may be more effective in losing weight than skipping breakfast.
This is due to the body having what researchers describe as an internal clock, with many aspects of metabolism best functioning in the morning. Eating in accordance with this clock can have a positive influence on health.
Courtney Peterson, PhD, led the study at the Pennington Biomedical Research Centre.
“We found that eating between 8am and 2pm, followed by an 18-hour daily fast, burned more fat and kept appetite levels more even throughout the day, in comparison to eating between 8am and 8pm, which is average for Americans.”
Dale Schoeller, PhD, FTOS spokesperson for The Obese Society and Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, said the findings showed the timing of eating during the day does have an impact on metabolism.
Previously, the eTRF diet was tested on rodents, showing a reduction in fat mass and a decreased risk of chronic diseases.
Over the course of eight days, The Obesity Society followed eleven men and women with what they affectionately describe as “excess weight” as they undertook regimes of eating schedules, calorie tracking, and “rigorous testing.”
For the first four days, participants ate on the restricted timetable, before switching to the “average” schedule of eating between 8am and 8pm for the final four days.
Fat and protein oxidation was improved, and the frequency of hunger swings was reduced.
Dale Schoeller, PhD, FTOS spokesperson for The Obese Society and Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, said that the findings showed the timing of eating during the day does have an impact on metabolism.
“With additional research on early-time restricted feeding on humans, we can create a more complete picture of how this innovative method can best help prevent and treat obesity.”
But, don’t start rescheduling your dinner dates just yet.
Researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University believe to have found proof that eating late at night does not increase weight gain.
Judy Cameron, PhD, is a senior scientist in the divisions of Reproductive Sciences and Neuroscience at the University’s National Primate Research Centre. She studied sixteen female rhesus monkeys on a high-fat diet similar in composition to that normally consumed by humans in the United States.
“We’ve all been told at one point in our lives that we should avoid eating meals late at night as it will lead to weight gain.”
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“However, our research in rhesus monkeys, which are considered an excellent model for studying primate (man and monkey) obesity issues, showed that eating at night is no more likely to promote weight gain than eating during the day.”
The monkeys were observed for a year, researchers noting both how much was being eaten, and when, which varied greatly. The monkeys were found to eat between 6% and 64% of their total calories at night. This compares to the 24% to 65% consumed by humans in the same time frame.
Elinor Sullivan, an OHSU graduate student who is conducting research at the Oregon National Primate Research Centre, remarked that the monkeys that ate most of their food at night experienced the same weight gain as those that did not.
“This suggests that calories cause weight gain no matter when you eat them.”
So, maybe eating your weekly roast just after lunch isn’t a guaranteed path to the perfect body. Then again, you may not be a rhesus monkey, and your metabolism may function on a slightly tighter schedule. But at the end of the day, what you’re eating probably means a whole lot more than when you’re eating it, and no dinnertime, be it 2pm or 2am, can substitute a proper diet and exercise.