Skipping breakfast and snacking late at night could lead to a delay in the body’s ability to lose weight, new research has suggested.
If we’re trying to shed the pounds, we know we need to watch what we eat, how much we eat and how much we move, but according to a new study our ability to burn dietary calories could also be impacted by the time of day most of our food is consumed.
The study, published in the journal PLOS Biology, monitored the metabolism of middle-aged and older subjects in a whole-room respiratory chamber over two separate 56-hour sessions.
In each session, lunch and dinner were presented at the same times (12.30pm and 17.45pm, respectively), but the timing of the third meal differed between the two halves of the study.
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In one of the 56-hour sessions, the additional daily meal was presented as breakfast (at 8:00) whereas in the other session, a nutritionally equivalent meal was given to the same subjects as a late-evening snack (22.00pm).
The duration of the overnight fast was the same for both sessions.
While the two sessions did not differ in the amount or type of food eaten, or in participants’ activity levels, the daily timing of the third meal had an impact on the amount of fat burned.
Researchers found that the late-evening snack session resulted in less fat burned when compared to the breakfast session.
Study authors said the circadian rhythm, or the body clock, is programmed to assist the body to burn fat when asleep.
As a consequence, skipping breakfast and then snacking at night could lead to a delay in the burning of the fat.
Based on their experimental observations, the researchers said the timing of meals during the day/night cycle could impact the extent to which ingested food is used versus stored.
The study team said their research could have wider implications for advising people on their eating habits, suggesting that a daily fast between the evening meal and breakfast could help optimise weight management.
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This isn’t the first time the health benefits of the overnight fast have been discussed.
Last year research suggested skipping breakfast and eating a late dinner could lead to more serious outcomes after a heart attack.
Scientists found people who frequently bypassed brekkie and regularly ate dinner less than two hours before going to bed were far less likely to survive if they suffered a heart attack.
But there has also been some contradictory research in terms of whether eating breakfast can aid weight loss.
While eating breakfast has previously been thought to help aid weight loss, a further body of research suggests you may be better off without it.
Past studies have found a protein-based morning meal or a bowl full of oats first thing could be the key to maintaining a steady weight and controlling your appetite later in the day.
But last year scientists from the Monash University in Melbourne found those who eat breakfast were found to have a higher energy consumption during the day (an average of 260 more calories) compared to those who skipped the morning meal.
Breakfast eaters also weighed, on average, almost half a kilogram more (0.44kg) compared to non-breakfast eaters.
What’s more, the scientists concluded skipping breakfast does not reduce appetite during the day, as previously thought.
The scientists weren’t the first to challenge the supposed link between eating breakfast and weight loss.
Followers of the popular intermittent fasting diet will often skip breakfast in order to limit their eating “window” to later in the day.