New Studies Reveal The Best Time Of Day To Eat For Weight Loss

Two recent studies suggest that when we eat might actually make a difference when it comes to losing weight. One small study published in the journal Cell Metabolism showed that eating later in the day was associated with more hunger over a 24-hour period. Researchers studied 16 participants with an average age of 37 years who were either overweight or obese. The participants followed two different protocols: a strict eating schedule, and eating meals four hours later.

Findings revealed that late-night eating increased appetite by affecting levels of ghrelin and leptin, the appetite hormones. Simply put, leptin is released when the body is full, and ghrelin increases hunger (via Endocrine Web). Participants who ate later in the day had lower levels of leptin, which could be part of the reason why the participants felt hungry. The study also showed that participants who ate later in the day burned calories at a slower rate. The authors noted that more research was needed to understand the biological mechanisms at play.

Time-restricted eating improved several biomarkers

The second study showed that eating within a certain window might also improve health. This study, also published in Cell Metabolism, followed 137 firefighters between the ages of 23 and 59 years of age for 12 weeks. The participants, who worked 24-hour shifts, ate their meals within a 10-hour window. They followed the Mediterranean diet, which includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish, and poultry. This diet also limits the amount of red meat, cheese, yogurt, wine, and foods containing added sugars (via Harvard Medical School). Almost half of the participants (70) ate within a 10-hour window, while the remaining participants ate whenever they wanted.

At the end of the 12 weeks, those who ate within the 10-hour window saw a significant decrease in the levels of low-density lipoproteins, or "bad" cholesterol, with a drop of almost 3%. In addition, participants who had high levels of blood pressure and blood sugar saw improvements in those numbers at the end of the study. The authors noted that the participants who saw the greatest benefits were older and had at least one risk of heart and metabolic disease. That said, the findings led the authors of the study to conclude that the results of time-restricted eating could offer the same benefits in the real world.