As part of the course, each student was asked to research a nutrition-related myth they were interested in, write an op-ed piece, and develop an infographic. The op-ed needed to be informative, well researched and persuasive; having a distinct “call to action” or conclusion to tell their audience. For this series, will be showcasing some of these op-eds. Starting with that of Hannah Dugoni, who chose to look into the timing of meal consumption.
Does meal timing affect weight loss?
By: Hannah Dugoni
I argue that eating large morning and early afternoon meals paired with a smaller evening meal may help with weight loss. However, this eating structure should be paired with other healthy diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits in order to see health improvements. Food timing should be considered for those trying to lose weight, and such individuals should avoid eating late night meals and snacks.
Studies suggest that circadian rhythm plays an important role in one’s ability to lose weight. Your circadian rhythm is a biological “clock” that helps regulate the body’s metabolic processes. Disrupting the circadian rhythm, for example by eating meals in the middle of the night instead of during the day, has serious consequences for the body. When researchers fed nocturnal mice high-fat diets during the day for an extended period of time, they gained significantly more weight than mice fed the same high-fat diet but during the night, which was in alignment with their circadian rhythm.
There are similar findings in night shift workers who are disrupting their circadian rhythms by being awake and consuming their meals during night hours. These workers were more likely to be heavy and obese than those who ate their meals during the day, and they also had more metabolic disorders and diseases. This is a critical finding, for in 2004 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that almost 15 million Americans have evening, night, or irregular shift schedules. These findings strongly suggest that circadian rhythm and meal timing is important for health and weight management and has serious implications for the health of many Americans.
More specific to day-time meal consumption, adults who ate larger morning and early afternoon meals (total of 70% of daily calories) paired with smaller evening meals (remaining 30% of daily calories) lost more weight than those who ate smaller morning and early afternoon meals paired with larger evening meals. This means that incorporating larger morning meals paired with smaller evening meals may promote weight loss.
Not only does a small morning meal have the potential to negatively influence health and weight, but skipping breakfast altogether is also dangerous. Skipping breakfast is associated with an increased risk of obesity; this may be because skipping breakfast causes individuals to consume more calories throughout the day. Similar to how eating a late lunch leads to a late dinner, skipping breakfast may influence your eating habits and food intake for the remainder of the day. This is not a problem that just a few individuals face in their daily lives. According to a 2011 survey, about 31 million Americans skip breakfast every single day; these individuals are likely putting their health in danger and consuming extra calories just by failing to eat a morning meal.
Studies suggest that the circadian rhythm and meal timing play a role in one’s ability to lose weight. Findings demonstrate that larger morning meals paired with smaller evening meals results in more weight loss. Additionally, eating an early lunch may lead to an early dinner, which is also beneficial for weight loss. Lastly, literature and research findings stress the importance of eating a morning meal, for eating something at the beginning of the day likely influences food intake and eating patterns for the remainder of that day.
In total, these findings suggest there is more to weight loss than just calorie input and output. Even when energy intake and diet remain the same, food timing has an effect on one’s ability to lose weight. Thus, people trying to lose weight should be observant of when they are consuming meals and try to eat heavier meals in the morning. However, one should note that these suggestions must be taken with caution. There is more to a healthy lifestyle and weight loss than just food timing and these recommendations should be implemented into an existing healthy diet and lifestyle.