A new study seems to back up the sensibility in the adage “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.”
Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital, a nonprofit teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, in collaboration with the University of Murcia and Tufts University have found that people who ate lunch earlier experienced greater weight loss than those who ate lunch later. The data confirms what many trainers and nutritional experts have long recommended to clients.
The study focused on overweight participants in Spain and was published in the Jan. 29 issue of the International Journal of Obesity. The research centered on lunch, the largest meal of the day in Spain when more than 40 percent the total daily caloric intake is consumed. In the United States, dinner has long been considered the biggest meal.
"This is the first large-scale prospective study to demonstrate that the timing of meals predicts weight-loss effectiveness," the study’s senior author Frank Scheer, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in a news release. “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."
Researchers studied 420 overweight participants in Spain who followed a 20-week weight-loss treatment program. Participants were divided into lunch early-eaters – anytime before 3 p.m. – and late-eaters – after 3 p.m. Late-eaters lost significantly less weight, and displayed a much slower rate of weight loss, according to the study. Late-eaters also had a lower estimated insulin sensitivity, a risk factor for diabetes.
Milton Friedman once said that there’s no free lunch. Perhaps, but the research shows that along with controlling food portion and meal content, meal timing may just may be the ticket to help keep us free of those unwanted pounds.