Timing of food intake predicts weight loss effectiveness.

International journal of obesity (2005). 2013;37(4):604-11

Plain language summary

As obesity is a multifactorial disease, dietary interventions must take into account a range of physiological and psychological variables. There is emerging evidence linking energy regulation to the circadian clock, emphasizing that the timing of eating may play a role in weight regulation. The aim of this study was to evaluate the role of food timing in weight loss effectiveness among 420 overweight or obese participants during a 20-week weight loss treatment. Participants were grouped as either early or late eaters for consuming their main meal, and their energy intake, expenditure, appetite hormones, CLOCK genotype, sleep duration and chronotype were studied. In this study, those who ate their main meal late lost significantly less weight than early eaters. The findings of this study indicate that timing of food intake relates to long-term weight loss effectiveness in humans. These findings may help in developing therapeutic strategies for weight loss that incorporates the timing of food consumption with the traditional energy balance and macronutrient composition.


BACKGROUND There is emerging literature demonstrating a relationship between the timing of feeding and weight regulation in animals. However, whether the timing of food intake influences the success of a weight-loss diet in humans is unknown. OBJECTIVE To evaluate the role of food timing in weight-loss effectiveness in a sample of 420 individuals who followed a 20-week weight-loss treatment. METHODS Participants (49.5% female subjects; age (mean ± s.d.): 42 ± 11 years; BMI: 31.4 ± 5.4 kg m(-2)) were grouped in early eaters and late eaters, according to the timing of the main meal (lunch in this Mediterranean population). 51% of the subjects were early eaters and 49% were late eaters (lunch time before and after 1500 hours, respectively), energy intake and expenditure, appetite hormones, CLOCK genotype, sleep duration and chronotype were studied. RESULTS Late lunch eaters lost less weight and displayed a slower weight-loss rate during the 20 weeks of treatment than early eaters (P=0.002). Surprisingly, energy intake, dietary composition, estimated energy expenditure, appetite hormones and sleep duration was similar between both groups. Nevertheless, late eaters were more evening types, had less energetic breakfasts and skipped breakfast more frequently that early eaters (all; P<0.05). CLOCK rs4580704 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) associated with the timing of the main meal (P=0.015) with a higher frequency of minor allele (C) carriers among the late eaters (P=0.041). Neither sleep duration, nor CLOCK SNPs or morning/evening chronotype was independently associated with weight loss (all; P>0.05). CONCLUSIONS Eating late may influence the success of weight-loss therapy. Novel therapeutic strategies should incorporate not only the caloric intake and macronutrient distribution - as is classically done - but also the timing of food.

Lifestyle medicine

Fundamental Clinical Imbalances : Hormonal ; Digestive, absorptive and microbiological
Patient Centred Factors : Mediators/Circadian clock
Environmental Inputs : Diet
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition ; Sleep and relaxation
Functional Laboratory Testing : Blood
Bioactive Substances : BMI ; Circadian clock

Methodological quality

Allocation concealment : Not applicable


Nutrition Evidence keywords : BMI ; Circadian clock