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To Lose Weight, Watch Your Meal Times and not Just Calories

Update Date: Jan 29, 2013 08:02 AM EST

The timing of your meal is as important as what you are eating, says a new study. Researchers say that to efficiently lose weight, people must also consider the timing of their food intake and not just the calories they are consuming.

Researchers found that people who ate an early lunch (before 3 p.m.) lost more weight than people who ate a late lunch (after 3 p.m.). Since the study included people from Spain, researchers concentrated on how much food people consumed during lunch. People following Mediterranean diets get about 40 percent of their daily calories from lunch.

"This is the first large-scale prospective study to demonstrate that the timing of meals predicts weight-loss effectiveness. 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," said Frank Scheer, from BWH, and senior author on this study.

Timing and calorie intake during other smaller meals did not affect the weight of the people, researchers found. Late eaters were also more likely to skip breakfast and they also had lower insulin sensitivity.

The study included 420 overweight people who were enrolled in a weight loss program. Researchers accounted for other factors that might have played a role in aiding weight loss like sleep duration, calorie intake and expenditure, levels of certain hormones like leptin and ghrelin that are associated with appetite. However, researchers found that timing of the meal was independent of all other factors associated with weight management.

"This study emphasizes that the timing of food intake itself may play a significant role in weight regulation. Novel therapeutic strategies should incorporate not only the caloric intake and macronutrient distribution, as it is classically done, but also the timing of food," said Marta Garaulet, Ph.D, professor of Physiology at the University of Murcia Spain, and lead author of the study, in a news release.

The study is published in the International Journal of Obesity.

A related study on timing of meals, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, had shown that eating meals at regular times but fasting through the night might help you reduce weight.

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