A New Approach to Weight Loss: Eat Last Meal by Noon

Researchers are studying time-restricted eating habits as a method to lose weight.

UAB Public RelationsEating dinner early, or skipping it, may be effective in fighting body fat

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham are trying to determine whether a person can burn more fat and thereby lose weight by altering their eating schedule.

The study tested early time-restricted feeding (eTRF) in humans and discovered that following a timed-meal strategy reduces hunger swings and alters fat and carbohydrate burning patterns, which may help with losing weight. eTRF is a unique diet which dictates that people should eat their last meal of the day by mid-afternoon and then not eat again until breakfast next morning.

"Eating only during a much smaller window of time than people are typically used to may help with weight loss," said Dr. Courtney Peterson, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences at UAB. "We found that eating between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. followed by an 18-hour daily fast kept appetite levels more even throughout the day, in comparison to eating between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., which is what the average American does."

This study has for the first time researched a link between eTRF and weight loss in humans. The theory that eating a very early dinner or skipping it entirely is beneficial in losing weight still has to be tested before it is validated as a scientific certainty. However, previous animal studies have shown that eTRF helped rodents burn more fat.

The human body, like almost all living creatures on Earth, is endowed with its own internal biological clock, also known as the circadian clock. A human being's body varies its metabolic functions, hormone secretions, and involuntary muscle actions in accordance with its circadian rhythm. Deviating from this biological clock disrupts the natural processes in our body. Since our digestive and metabolic functions peak in the morning, researchers believe that people can positively influence their health by eating their last meal in the afternoon.

In the recent study, Dr. Peterson and her colleagues observed 11 men and women with excess weight over four days of eating between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., and four days of eating between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., with the participants trying both eating schedules and consuming the same number of calories under supervision. The researchers then tested the correlation between eTRF and calories burned, fat burned and appetite changes.

The results – presented recently at the annual meeting of The Obesity Society in New Orleans, Louisiana – declared that although eTRF did not affect the number of calories burned, it did reduce daily hunger swings and increase the amount of fat burned at night. It also improved metabolic flexibility, which is the body's ability to switch between burning carbs and burning fats, according to Science Daily.

Comprehensive studies, with a larger number of participants, need to be conducted before it can be patently ascertained that eTRF helps with long-term weight loss and improvement in other aspects of health.