In a study from Johns Hopkins University, scientists found the frequency and size of meals was a stronger determinant of weight loss or gain than the time between the first and last meal.
Although ‘time-restricted eating patterns’—known as intermittent fasting—are popular, studies have not yet determined whether limiting the total eating window during the day helps to control weight.
In the current study, the team evaluated the association between time from the first meal to the last meal with weight change.
They examined nearly 550 adults (18 years old or older) in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Participants had at least one weight and height measurement registered in the two years prior to the study.
The research team created a mobile application, Daily24, for participants to catalog sleeping, eating, and wake-up time for each 24-hour window in real time.
Based on the timing of sleeping and eating each day recorded in the mobile app, the researchers calculated an average for all data from completed days for each participant.
They found meal timing was not associated with weight change during the six-year follow-up period.
This includes the interval from first to last meal, from waking up to eating a first meal, from eating the last meal to going to sleep and total sleep duration.
Total daily number of large meals (estimated at more than 1,000 calories) and medium meals (estimated at 500-1,000 calories) were each linked to increased weight over the six-year follow-up, while fewer small meals (estimated at less than 500 calories) were associated with decreasing weight.
The average time from first to last meal was 11.5 hours; the average time from waking up to first meal measured 1.6 hours; the average time from last meal to sleep was 4 hours; and the average sleep duration was calculated at 7.5 hours.
The study did not detect an association between meal timing and weight change in a population with a wide range of body weights.
Even though previous studies have suggested intermittent fasting may improve the body’s rhythms and regulate metabolism, this study in a large group with a wide range of body weights did not detect this link.
The team says large-scale, rigorous clinical trials of intermittent fasting on long-term weight change are extremely difficult to conduct.
However, even short-term intervention studies may be valuable to help guide future recommendations.
If you care about weight loss, please read studies that hop extract could reduce belly fat in overweight people, and early time-restricted eating could help lose weight.
For more information about weight loss, please see recent studies that green Mediterranean diet can reduce belly fat much better, and why sleep is so important for losing weight.
The study was conducted by Wendy L. Bennett et al and published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
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