Well Being

Dieters Who Lunch Late Lose Less Weight Than Early Eaters

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scale with clock front

Early to lunch and early to dinner makes a gal healthy, happy and thinner. At least so says a new study published in the International Journal of Obesity, which found taking meals earlier in the day was associated with faster weight loss and more weight loss overall.

Research scientists from the Brigham and Women's Hospital, Tufts University and Spain's University of Murcia monitored the eating habits and weight loss success of 420 overweight Spanish participants on a 20-week diet program. The dieters were split into two groups, the only difference between which was dieters' mid-day meal time: One group ate lunch before 3 p.m., while the other group ate lunch after 3 p.m.

In Spain, lunch tends to be more culturally important—and calorically heftier—than dinner.

Overall, dieters in the late-lunch group lose less weight, at a slower rate, than the comida temprana (early lunch) group. They also were more likely to skip breakfast and showed lower insulin sensitivity, a risk factor for diabetes.

Breakfast and dinner times didn't influence weight loss success for either group.

“The timing of the main meal by itself seems to be the most determinant factor in weight loss effectiveness, and therefore eating at the right time may be a relevant factor to consider in weight loss therapies,” the authors conclude.

“We cannot directly translate these findings to Americans,” neuroscientists and lead study author Frank Scheer told USA Today, “but we would expect that a later dinner — the main meal for most Americans — might similarly impair weight loss.”

He also said that researchers aren't sure why weight loss is greater with early meal times, but it may have something to do with the way glucose (sugar) is processed differently depending on time of day. It's also possible that meal timing impacts the body's circadian rhythm and disrupts proper functioning of liver and fat cells.