Researchers have provided more evidence that eating earlier in the day may be good for you — and eating all of your meals within 10 hours can be healthier, too.
The takeaway from this latest wave of research on eating? Eat breakfast and try to limit your meals to a 10-hour window.
A reason to eat early in the day? A study conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital showed that participants who ate meals four hours after the day were hungrier, burned calories at a slower rate, and experienced changes in the body that promoted fat growth. The research was published this week in cell metabolism.
First author Nina Vogovich, a researcher in the hospital’s Department of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, wrote in a description of the research on the hospital’s website. “And we’ve found that eating after four hours makes a huge difference in our hunger levels, the way we burn calories after eating, and the way we store fat.”
The researchers had 16 overweight patients eat the exact same meals on two schedules: one with meals earlier in the day and one with meals about four hours later. (For example, one participant in the early group might eat around 9 a.m., 1 p.m., and 5 p.m.; the other group eats at 1 p.m., 5 p.m., and 9 p.m.)
Participants recorded their hunger and appetite. The researchers collected blood samples, body temperature levels, energy expenditure, and samples of body fat tissue from some people.
Researchers have said that eating late increases the likelihood of feeling hungry more than doubles. When study participants ate it later in the day, the researchers said, they had lower levels of the hormone leptin, which is present when we feel full.
Genetic testing also indicated fat growth accompanied by eating later. The study says that eating late burned about 60 fewer calories.
“We wanted to test mechanisms that might explain why late eating increases obesity risk,” senior author Frank Sher, director of the Medical Chronobiology Program in Brigham’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, said in a statement.
The study is small but specifically designed to assess the effects of eating schedules on the body. The researchers hope to expand on the findings.
“This study shows the effect of late versus early eating. Here, we isolated these effects by controlling for confounding variables such as calorie intake, physical activity, sleep and light exposure, but in real life, many of these same factors may be influenced by meal timing,” Cher said. “In large-scale studies, where strict control of all of these factors is not feasible, we should at least consider how other behavioral and environmental variables alter these biological pathways underlying obesity risk.”
Should breakfast be your biggest meal?
If you try to eat earlier in the day, making breakfast your largest meal of the day may not be critical, according to another study published in cell metabolism Last month. Researchers had 30 overweight people follow two diets for four weeks: one containing 45% of the day’s calories in the morning, and the other containing 45% of the day’s calories at dinner.
Researchers at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and the University of Surrey in England predicted that those who ate a large breakfast and a small dinner would burn more calories and lose more weight. Instead, they found no differences in subjects after they followed the two meal patterns.
But those who followed the morning diet reported fewer hunger pangs. “We know that appetite control is important for achieving weight loss, and our study suggests that those who consumed the most calories in the morning felt less hungry,” said study co-author Alexandra Johnston, professor of nutrition at Rutt University in Aberdeen. Institute, in a press release.
The two complementary, “meticulous” studies of healthy overweight and obese people “show how ‘forward-loading’ calories are a useful strategy for reducing overall hunger,” said Satchidananda Panda, a professor in the Institute of Regulatory Biology Laboratory. Salk Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, told US TODAY.
He was not involved in research studies related to food, but was among the authors of a study on time-restricted eating published this week in cell metabolism.
10 hour window to eat?
That study suggests that a general meal schedule — and how close meals are — might be worth taking a look at, too.
That’s because researchers found that firefighters who ate all of their meals within 10 hours significantly reduced levels of bad cholesterol, improved mental health, and reduced alcohol intake by about three drinks per week.
They said that people in the study who had higher blood sugar levels and blood pressure also experienced significant improvement.
Researchers at the Salk Institute and the University of California, San Diego, tracked 137 San Diego Rescue Department firefighters who were encouraged to follow a Mediterranean diet and used an app to track their diet for three months. Eat half of your meals within 10 hours, and the other half within 14 hours.
“Our study showed that shift workers with high blood pressure, blood sugar or cholesterol can benefit from a simple lifestyle called time-restricted eating,” Panda said in a statement. “It’s not a pill, but a healthy habit that can significantly reduce these three risks of disease without any harmful side effects.”
Participants chose any 10-hour window with breakfast within two or more hours after waking up and dinner three or more hours before going to bed on their days off, Panda told US TODAY. Most chose 8 to 10 AM for breakfast; From noon to 1 pm for lunch; He said that from six to eight in the evening for dinner.
“Bringing all of these things together, it’s safe to say that the general public can try to choose a 10-hour window that fits into their lifestyle for at least 5-6 days a week,” said Panda.
He suggests eating a larger breakfast, preferably at home because it’s usually healthier, and then eating a small lunch — “to reduce the dip after lunch,” he says — and a healthy dinner. “If they choose a window that ends before 8 p.m., they are also likely to cut back on alcohol and sweets in the evening/night.”
There are some limitations. “People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, expectant mothers, and people taking prescription medications should consult their physicians before beginning any dietary changes, including time-restricted eating,” Panda said.
Eating late increases hunger, reduces calorie burn, and alters fat tissue
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