To Lose Weight, Eat at the Right Time

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Dropping some pounds could involve more than calories swallowed and energy expended, according to Massachusetts researchers. They've concluded that to lose weight, you need to eat at the right time.

A team made up of scientists from Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, the University of Murcia, and Tufts University published their findings in the International Journal of Obesity. The results showed that the timing of large meals might well be a significant factor in losing weight, according to ScienceDaily.

Diners who ate relatively late lost weight more slowly than those who had early meals. The late diners also lost significantly less weight.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports some sobering statistics about the U.S. obesity epidemic. Nearly 36 percent of adults are obese. The cost of obesity in 2008 was an estimated $147 billion. Each obese American adult had $1,429 more in medical costs than an individual with a normal weight. In 2011, no state had less than a 20 percent obesity prevalence rate, and Mississippi topped the list with 34.9 percent.

Carrying extra pounds has become so commonplace that many people use overweight and obese interchangeably. They're actually different conditions that reflect different degrees of weighing too much. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, a person's body mass index (BMI) defines whether excessive weight represents being overweight or obese. BMI is also a good way to estimate an individual's risk for diseases linked to each condition.

The Massachusetts study included 420 overweight subjects in Spain who followed a 20-week weight-loss program. Researchers divided them into early-eater and late-eater groups. During lunch, the customary main meal in that area, each participant consumed 40 percent of the total daily calories allowed. The dividing line between early and late eating was 3 p.m. In addition to losing less weight than early diners, late eaters lost significantly less weight by project end and exhibited a lower estimated insulin sensitivity, representing a diabetes risk factor.

The study showed that the timing of the other meals didn't affect weight-loss success. Researchers ruled out the significance of other factors important for losing weight, such as sleep duration and certain appetite hormones, after finding no differences between the two groups.

Since early childhood, I have vacillated between being obese and overweight. Maintaining any weight loss is a struggle. Because I suffer from Crohn's disease, a digestive illness, doctors have frequently stressed the importance of eating at the right times. They say the digestive tract is most efficient at processing food early in the day.

Considering both health issues, I make breakfast my largest meal. Given the emphasis on how the digestive tract handles food for patients with digestive disorders, I found it surprising that it took this study to determine that to lose weight, it's important to eat at the right time.

Vonda J. Sines has published thousands of print and online health and medical articles. She specializes in diseases and other conditions that affect the quality of life.

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