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Structured meal timing can boost fat burning and decrease appetite

In a new study published by The Obesity Society, researchers are describing how strategies such as eating earlier in the day can help people lose weight by curbing their appetite. The experts also found evidence that intermittent fasting may boost fat-burning levels during a 24-hour period.

Study lead author Dr. Courtney M. Peterson is an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “We suspect that a majority of people may find meal timing strategies helpful for losing weight or to maintain their weight since these strategies naturally appear to curb appetite, which may help people eat less,” said Dr. Peterson. 

The investigation was focused on healthy adults between the ages of 20 and 45 who had excess weight. The individuals selected for the study fell within a specific range for body weight and body mass index, and also had a regular bedtime between 9:30 p.m. and midnight. 

The participants were introduced to Early Time-Restricted Feeding (eTRF), which is a form of daily intermittent fasting where dinner is eaten in the afternoon. As a control, there was another phase of the trial during which the individuals ate three meals across a 12-hour period with breakfast at 8:00 a.m. and dinner at 8:00 p.m. 

On both schedules, the same types of foods were consumed for four consecutive days. The participants experienced 12 hours of fasting per day during the control schedule, while the eTRF schedule involved fasting for 18 hours per day.

The appetite levels of participants were measured every three hours while they were awake, and hunger hormones were evaluated in the morning and evening. In addition, on the final day of each routine, the participants were placed in a respiratory chamber where researchers measured their metabolism rates and how many calories, carbohydrates, fat, and protein were burned. 

While eTRF did not substantially influence how many calories were burned, this strategy was found to lower levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, improve some aspects of appetite, and increase fat burning over the course of a 24-hour day.

Professor Hollie Raynor of UT Knoxville, who was not involved in the research, pointed out that the study “helps provide more information about how patterns of eating, and not just what you eat, may be important for achieving a healthy weight.”

Study co-author Dr. Eric Ravussin is the director of the Nutritional Obesity Research Center at Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

“Coordinating meals with circadian rhythms, or your body’s internal clock, may be a powerful strategy for reducing appetite and improving metabolic health,” said Dr. Ravussin.

The research is published in the journal Obesity.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

Image Credit: RossHelen/Shutterstock

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