Changing your meal times can affect how your body metabolizes fat, which may accelerate weight loss

Making slight changes to your meal times may be beneficial to your body. A study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science has found that changes in meal times can reduce body fat, resulting in a lower risk of obesity and related diseases.

Conducted by researchers from the University of Surrey in the U.K., the study looked at the feasibility of a moderate time-restricted feeding, a form of intermittent fasting, and its effects on adiposity, metabolism, dietary intake, and blood risk markers for diabetes and heart disease.

In conducting the study, the researchers observed two groups of participants: a control group and an intervention group. Participants in the control group ate their meals as they normally would for 10 weeks, while participants in the other group were required to delay their breakfast and advance their dinner by 90 minutes. Although changes in their meal times were done, they were not required to stick to a strict diet and could eat freely, as long as it was within a certain eating window.

In addition, the participants provided blood samples and completed diet diaries before and during the 10-week study period. They also completed a feedback questionnaire right after the study.

After analyzing the results, the researchers found that those who changed their meal times, on average, lost more than twice as much body fat as those who ate their meals as usual. Despite being allowed to eat freely, the intervention group also ate less food overall than the control group. This was either because of decreased appetite, reduced eating opportunities, or a reduction in snacking, especially in the evenings. Additionally, the researchers observed significant differences in fasting glucose between the groups.

However, when the researchers examined if fasting diets are compatible with everyday life and long term commitment, more than half of the participants reported that fasting diets were difficult to follow and might not always be compatible with their family and social life.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that intermittent fasting may positively change the way the body metabolizes fat, which could lead to weight loss. (Related: Intermittent fasting for women: How it can help you, and the warning signs to watch out for.)

“Although this study is small, it has provided us with invaluable insight into how slight alterations to our meal times can have benefits to our bodies. Reduction in body fat lessens our chances of developing obesity and related diseases, so is vital in improving our overall health,” said Dr. Jonathan Johnston, one of the researchers for the study.

Intermittent fasting benefits metabolism even without causing weight loss

Some studies that compared daily fasting to eating less every day have reported that both worked about the same for weight loss, except that people found fasting days more difficult. Because of this, some people may just adhere to eating less instead of fasting. However, intermittent fasting approaches are different from each other. Some are actually more reasonable, effective, and sustainable.

In one study, obese men with prediabetes either adhered to a form of intermittent fasting called “early time-restricted feeding,” in which they ate their meals within an eight-hour period of the day (7 a.m. to 3 p.m.) or ate their meals over 12 hours (between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.). Researchers at the University of Alabama found that while both groups maintained their weight, those who adhered to early time-restricted feeding had significantly lower insulin levels and greatly improved insulin sensitivity after five weeks compared to the other group. In addition, their blood pressure was significantly lowered too. Furthermore, the intermittent fasting group had dramatically reduced appetite, which meant that they were not starving.

These findings suggest that changing the timing of meals may significantly benefit metabolism, even in people who did not lose weight.

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