Changing up when you eat meals may help reduce body fat, study finds

SURREY, United Kingdom — Making small changes to breakfast and dinner times every now and again can have a positive effect on reducing body fat, a recent study shows.

Physiologists at the University of Surrey tested the effects of what they call time-restricted feeding, a form of intermittent fasting, on a group of 13 people for ten weeks. The researchers wanted to learn the effects of time-restricted feeding on dietary intake, blood risk markers for diabetes and heart disease, and body fat composition.

Participants were split into two groups. One group was required to delay their breakfast by 90 minutes and eat dinner 90 minutes earlier, the other group ate meals as they normally would. All participants gave blood samples and complete dietary diaries before and during the 10-week study. They also completed a feedback questionnaire after the study.

Diverting from previous, similar studies, the participants were not asked to eat certain foods or adhere to a particular diet. They could eat freely, as long as it was between certain times. The researchers wanted to see if this type of diet would be easy to follow in day-to-day life.

Results showed that participants who changed their mealtimes, on average, lost more than twice as much body fat as those in the control group. Researchers found the delayed-meal group ate less food overall than the control group. The questionnaire revealed that 57% of participants said they ate less food due to reduced appetite, decreased eating opportunities, or a cutback in snacking — especially in the evening.

“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,” explains Dr. Jonathan Johnston, reader in Chronobiology and Integrative Physiology at the university, in a statement. “Reduction in body fat lessens our chances of developing obesity and related diseases, so is vital in improving our overall health.”

The study was published in the Journal of Nutritional Sciences.