Restricting meals to a narrow time frame is not as effective as eating fewer calories when it comes to losing weight, results from new research indicate.

The six-year study of a group of 550 American adults classed as being obese found that the timing from the first meal to the last meal was not linked to weight loss.

While fasting and other time-restricting approaches are popular, the study shows that eating fewer large meals and consuming less overall is more effective.

In order to evaluate the link between time from the first to last meal and weight change, researchers designed a mobile app so study participants could log their sleeping, eating and wake time over 24-hour periods.

This allowed researchers to measure:

  • The time from the first meal to the last meal each day;
  • The time lapse from waking to first meal; and
  • The interval from the last meal to sleep.

Analysing this data, the team found:

  • Meal timing was not linked to weight change during the six-year follow-up period. This includes the time between first to last meal; the time from waking to eating a meal; the time from eating the last meal to going to sleep; and the amount of sleep in total.
  • The total number of large meals each day (more than 1,000 calories) and medium meals (500-1,000 calories) were each associated with weight gain over the six-years, while fewer small meals (less than 500 calories) was associated with weight loss.
  • The study did not find a link between meal timing and weight change among a participant group with a wide range of body weights.

Senior study author Dr Wendy L. Bennett, an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, America, said that previous studies have yet to determine if limiting the timeframe when you eat during the day can help with weight management.

Latest 2022 figures from the American Heart Association show that 40% of adults in the US are obese.

Read the study in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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