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Lunch Timing and Weight Loss

Lunch Timing and Weight Loss

Most diets designed to promote weight loss center around a balance between caloric intake and energy expenditure, but research suggests that also meal timing might contribute to the success of your weight loss efforts. In a large-scale prospective study carried out by a group of scientists from Spain and North America, people who ate their lunch early lost more weight, and at a higher rate, than study participants who ate their lunch later. Keep reading to get the full scoop.

Study Finds a Link Between Lunch Timing and Weight Loss Success

Published in The International Journal of Obesity, this groundbreaking prospective study followed 420 overweight and obese Spanish men and women enrolled in a 20-week weight loss program. Based on their daily dietary records, the study participants were divided into two groups: The first group, accounting for 51% of the study participants, ate their main meal of the day, which in this case was lunch because of the Mediterranean setting, before 3 p.m. The second group, which accounted for 49% of the study participants, consistently ate their lunch after 3 p.m. In both groups, the lunch comprised about 40% of the total daily intake of calories.

During the 20-week weight loss program, both groups lost weight. However, those who ate their main meal earlier lost significantly more weight (22 pounds on average) than the late lunch eaters (17 pounds on average). After following the weight loss regimen for five weeks, the early lunch eaters also started to show a faster rate of weight loss than the late lunch eaters, a trend that persisted until the end of the study. The researchers also observed that the timing of the other meals (breakfast and dinner) did not play a role in the study participants' weight loss success. However, they did observe that the late lunch eaters, that is, those who lost less weight, consumed fewer calories during breakfast and were more likely to skip breakfast altogether.

The researchers also took into consideration other factors that may play a role weight loss such as total energy intake, estimated energy expenditure, dietary composition, sleep duration, and the plasma levels of appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin. However, there were no significant differences between the two groups with regard to these factors, which suggests that the timing of the lunch was an important and independent factor in weight loss success.

The researchers concluded that eating late may influence the success of weight loss regimens, and that weight loss diets should not only take into account caloric intake and macronutrient distribution but also the timing of food intake. They did, however, add that their study was observational in nature and that further interventional studies investigating causal relationships are warranted.

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