Skipping dinner linked to 74% higher risk of obesity, study suggests

Alexandra Thompson
·2 min read
No vegan diet concept. Teen girl pushing away plate with broccoli and other vegetables refusing to eat. Food waste. Copy space. Selective focus on food.
People who skip dinner weigh more than those who eat the meal every day, research suggests. (Posed by a model, Getty Images)

Dieters may skip meals in an attempt to lose weight, however, research suggests going without dinner could have the opposite effect.

Previous studies show people who do not eat breakfast tend to be heavier, possibly due to them reaching for unhealthy snacks mid-morning.

With the effects of skipping other meals being less understood, scientists from Osaka University in Japan analysed more than 26,000 students.

Results suggest those who “occasionally” or “more than occasionally” went without dinner were up to 67% more likely to have gained at least 10% of their body weight over the next three years, compared to those who ate the meal every day.

Read more: Nearly one in five women in England has ‘possible eating disorder’

Perhaps surprisingly, skipping breakfast or lunch was not linked to weight gain.

Not eating dinner was also associated with an up to 74% higher risk of being overweight or obese.

Weight control concept. Bathroom scale isolated on white background, top view. 3d illustration
Going without meals may cause people to reach for unhealthy snacks, leading to a higher overall calorie intake and therefore weight gain. (Stock, Getty Images)

Obesity has been linked to a host of medical conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even cancer.

Carrying a dangerous amount of weight as a child or teenager is also associated with having an elevated body mass index as an adult.

The scientists analysed university students, who are synonymous for putting on weight in their first year; the so-called “freshman 15”.

Read more: 4 billion worldwide will be overweight by 2050

Results reveal skipping dinner “occasionally” or “more than occasionally” was linked to a 42% increased risk of weight gain among the male students, rising to 67% for the females.

It was also associated with 68% higher odds of being overweight or obese among the female students, increasing to 74% for the men.

“These results suggest skipping dinner, which was much less prevalent than skipping breakfast, has a stronger association with weight gain and overweight/obesity than skipping breakfast,” the scientists wrote in the journal Nutrients.

A “plausible mechanism” may be the “up-regulation of appetite” after not eating an evening meal, leading to a higher calorie intake overall.

People who skip dinner may also have a worse diet, suggested the scientists.

Read more: Obesity rising among reception-aged children in England

They concluded: “These results suggest dinner frequency may be a critical lifestyle factor for the prevention of obesity in addition to breakfast frequency.

“However, the clinical impact of dinner frequency should be clarified in further studies.”

Read more: Students eating worse amid pandemic