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Eat Late Gain Weight. Fact or fiction?

Eat Late Gain Weight. Fact or fiction?

By Jessica Ward

‘Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper’. Is there any truth in that age-old saying? 

Certainly many diets suggest that food eaten late is more likely to be converted to fat, and thus advocate eating only before 7pm. This is challenging for many people, both to get home in time to eat that early and also in the long gap until the next meal.

So, does time of eating affect how the human body handles calories?

Many studies have been carried out to try to answer that question and unhelpfully the answers vary:

YES: If you are a mouse, anyway. Time-restricted mice put on less weight than those allowed free access to food.

MAYBE: A Swedish study showed that obese women might eat more at night, but also that they ate more in general; so it only showed a possible association, not a cause.  For Swedish men, time of eating definitely made no differenceA different study in Spain relating to a ‘late lunch’ (after 3pm) showed a possible association between later lunch and higher weight.

NO: If you are a monkey. A 2006 study on rhesus monkeys (obviously much closer to humans than mice) concluded there was no effect from time of eatingAnother large study of 2500 people showed that eating patterns did not matter, although quantity and frequency of meals did.

In the absence of any conclusive evidence, what does a doctor think? Harvard-qualified Robert Schmerling MD thinks that there is no conclusive evidence that we handle calories differently depending on the time of day. Couldn't agree more, Dr Schmerling.

Like Dr Schmerling, let’s keep an open mind. For now we should probably eat when it suits us, but concentrate on what and how much we eat.