Trying to lose weight? Pay attention to lunchtime

WASHINGTON — If you are having trouble shedding pounds, take a look at the time you eat your meals. Recent research finds that the time you eat lunch especially could make a difference.

Lean Plate Club™ blogger Sally Squires said eating at certain times of the day might make you more likely to store that food as fat instead of burning it as calories.

While many people are familiar with warnings against eating big meals close to bedtime, they may not be familiar with why the timing of lunch is important.

Squires said Spanish researchers have tackled this issue and determined that people with a variation of a gene called perilipin 1 lost less weight than those without the gene. In addition, they found that people with that gene who also ate at lunch after 3 p.m. lost even less weight.

Details on the study were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It involved nearly 1,400 overweight men and women who were participating in seven months of weight loss treatments, which included a Mediterranean diet rich in nuts, healthy oils, and plenty of fruit, vegetables and whole grains and fish.

Those who ate lunch after 3 p.m. lost about 14 pounds during the seven-month period. However those who ate an earlier lunch and did not have that gene lost about 20 pounds on average.

“Researchers have determined that there appears to be an active circadian clock in our stomach, liver, intestine and pancreas that helps control what happens to food after it is eaten,” Squires said.

Consequently, higher calorie foods eaten later in the day are more likely to be stored as fat.

“I think we have to tell ourselves that we are going to take the time to eat at regular times and making sure that we are fueling our bodies throughout the day,” Squires said. “Other research also shows that people who ate later in the day and ate larger dinners didn’t lose as much weight.”

In addition to weight loss, Squires pointed to other studies suggesting that eating late at night might be linked to an increased risk of breast cancer in women. A study of 2,400 women published earlier this year in JAMA Oncology found that women who had fewer than 13 hours without eating between dinner and breakfast had a 36 percent increased risk of breast cancer returning. In contrast, there was no increased risk for those who had at least 13 hours between dinner and breakfast.

Despite our busy schedules, Squires said research strongly recommends taking time for yourself during the day.

“You deserve a breakfast, and you should make sure you eat lunch about three to four hours after that and not considerably later in the afternoon, and certainly don’t eat too late at night,” she said.

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