Researchers at the University of Surrey have demonstrated that adjusting the timings of breakfast and dinner can reduce body fat.
Many people follow diets to improve their appearance but having excess body fat is much more serious than just a cosmetic problem.
Having too much body fat can have long-term health implications, increasing the risk of several chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disorders and cancer.
Consequently, there have been several public health campaigns to reduce body mass index in those who are overweight.
It seems, however, that the culinary temptations surrounding us remain too great and the prevalence of obesity is steadily increasing, despite ongoing research into effective diets and weight loss programmes.
Now, researchers have investigated the impact of changing meal times on dietary intake, body composition and blood risk markers for diabetes and heart disease.
The results of the study were published yesterday in the Journal of Nutritional Sciences.
The 10-week study evaluated a form of intermittent fasting known as time-restricted feeding.
The control group ate meals as they would normally whereas the test group ate their breakfast 90 minutes later than usual and had their dinner 90 minutes earlier than usual.
There were no restrictions on what participants in either group could eat; only the timing of meals was stipulated.
Each participant was also required to complete a diet diary and provide blood samples before and during the 10-week study period.
The results showed that on average participants in the test group lost more than twice as much body fat as those in the control group.
Although this study is small, it has provided us with invaluable insight into how slight alterations to our meal times can have benefits to our bodies. Reduction in body fat lessens our chances of developing obesity and related diseases, so is vital in improving our overall health. However, as we have seen with these participants, fasting diets are difficult to follow and may not always be compatible with family and social life.” , Lead Researcher
In addition, although there were no restrictions on what participants could eat, those in the test group ate less food than those in the control group.
This finding was reflected in the observations of study participants.
A total of 57% of participants noted a reduction in food intake either due to reduced appetite, decreased eating opportunities or a cutback in snacking.
It was thought that changing meal times would be easier for individuals to maintain compliance than diets that restrict food intake.
However, a similar proportion of participants reported that they did not feel that they could have maintained the new meal times for longer than the 10 weeks because they were incompatible with family and social life.
Around 43% of participants said they would consider continuing with the altered meal times if the eating times were more flexible.
We are now going to use these preliminary findings to design larger, more comprehensive studies of time-restricted feeding”. Dr. Jonathan Johnston, Lead Researcher
If the findings from this pilot study can be reproduced in larger studies, time-restricted feeding programmes may have the potential to provide substantial health benefits.