New research from the University of Surrey has found that small changes in the timing of breakfast and dinner can successfully reduce body fat. The study was focused on time-restricted feeding, which is a form of intermittent fasting.
Over ten weeks, the researchers investigated the impact that changing meal times may have on body composition, dietary intake, and diabetes and heart disease risk markers.
Two groups of study participants were instructed to either delay their breakfast by 90 minutes and have dinner 90 minutes earlier, or to eat meals as they would normally.
Before and during the intervention, the individuals provided blood samples and recorded everything they ate. The participants also completed a feedback questionnaire immediately after the trial.
The individuals were not required to stick to a strict diet and were allowed to eat freely, which helped the researchers evaluate whether this type of diet was easy to follow in everyday life.
The study revealed that participants who changed their meal times lost more than twice as much body fat compared to individuals in the control group. The findings suggest that time-restricted feeding could have broad health benefits, but larger studies are needed to confirm this theory.
Even though there were no restrictions on what participants could eat, the experts found that those who made meal time changes ate less food overall. It is also possible that the longer fasting period which resulted from stricter meal times could have contributed to the body fat reduction.
“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,” said study lead author Dr. Jonathan Johnston. “Reduction in body fat lessens our chances of developing obesity and related diseases, so is vital in improving our overall health.”
“However, as we have seen with these participants, fasting diets are difficult to follow and may not always be compatible with family and social life. We therefore need to make sure they are flexible and conducive to real life, as the potential benefits of such diets are clear to see.”
“We are now going to use these preliminary findings to design larger, more comprehensive studies of time-restricted feeding.”
The study is published in the Journal of Nutritional Science.