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Eating Dinner Early, or Skipping It, May Be Effective in Fighting Body Fat

First human test of early time-restricted feeding shows promise to help people lose body fat

by The Obesity Society
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Eating Dinner Early, or Skipping It, May Be Effective in Fighting Body Fat Image credit: Peterson, C. Pennington Biomedical Research Center. Oral abstract presentation at: The Obesity Society Annual Meeting at ObesityWeekSM 2016; Oct. 31 - Nov. 4, 2016.

NEW ORLEANS, LA: The first human test of early time-restricted feeding found that this meal-timing strategy increased people’s ability to burn fat and reduced swings in hunger, two key factors in losing weight. In early time-restricted feeding (eTRF), people eat their last meal by the mid-afternoon and don’t eat again until breakfast the next morning. The findings were unveiled during an oral presentation Nov. 3 at The Obesity Society Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“Eating only during a much smaller window of time than people are typically used to may help with weight loss, specifically by increasing our body’s ability to burn fat and protein,” said Courtney Peterson, PhD, who led the study at Pennington Biomedical Research Center. “We found that eating between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. followed by an 18-hour daily fast burned more fat and kept appetite levels more even throughout the day, in comparison to eating between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., which is average for Americans.”

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This new research, funded by a TOS Early Career Research Grant awarded in 2014, suggests that eating a very early dinner, or even skipping dinner, may be a more effective weight loss strategy than skipping breakfast. The body has a internal clock, and many aspects of metabolism are at their optimal functioning in the morning. Therefore, eating in alignment with the body’s circadian clock by eating earlier in the day can positively influence health, and this new study of eTRF shows that this also applies to fat metabolism. This first test of eTRF in humans follows rodent studies of this approach to weight loss, which previously found that eTRF reduced fat mass and decreased the risk of chronic diseases in rodents.

To conduct their study, Dr. Peterson and colleagues followed eleven men and women with excess weight over four days of eating between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. (eTRF), and four days of eating between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. (average feeding for Americans). The researchers then tested the impact of eTRF on calories burned, fat burned and appetite. To eliminate subjectivity, the researchers had all participants try both eating schedules, eat the same number of calories both times, and complete rigorous testing under supervision. Researchers found that eTRF improved fat and protein oxidation, and daily hunger swings among other health indicators.

“These preliminary findings suggest for the first time in humans what we’ve seen in animal models—that the timing of eating during the day does have an impact on our metabolism,” said Dale Schoeller, PhD, FTOS spokesperson for The Obesity Society and Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin. “With additional research on early-time restricted feeding on humans, we can create a more complete picture of how this innovative method can best help prevent and treat obesity.”