This Popular Weight Loss Trick Won’t Work, Says New Study

Why Intermittent Fasting May Be a More Realistic New Year's Resolution for Weight Loss

Time-restricted eating, a type of intermittent fasting, has never been more more popular than it is right now. Contrary to many popular weight loss methods, time-restricted eating puts as much focus on when dieters should eat as opposed to what they eat. If you limit your food intake within a certain window of hours, the thinking goes, you can better control your calorie intake and expect a host of additional health benefits, including a stronger heart and better blood pressure. (Related: Know that Doing This Every Day is the Key to Weight Loss.)

One common component of time-restricted eating is eating more of your calories earlier in the day than later in the day. In fact, one big study focused on those with type-2 diabetes indicated that eating a large breakfast and lunch with no dinner at all was linked to weight loss.

But new preliminary research that will be presented at the American Heart Association’s “Scientific Sessions 2020” next week has poured some cold water on that particular tactic as it pertains to weight loss.

“We have wondered for a long time if when one eats during the day affects the way the body uses and stores energy,” says Nisa M. Maruthur, M.D., M.H.S., associate professor of medicine, epidemiology and nursing at Johns Hopkins University, and the lead author on the study. “Most prior studies have not controlled the number of calories, so it wasn’t clear if people who ate earlier just ate fewer calories. In this study, the only thing we changed was the time of day of eating.”

Ultimately, the researchers found that time-restricted eating in which overweight study participants moved the bulk of their calorie intake to earlier in the day had no effect on weight loss results at all.

“We thought that the time-restricted group would lose more weight,” observed Maruthur. “Yet that didn’t happen. We did not see any difference in weight loss for those who ate most of their calories earlier versus later in the day. We did not see any effects on blood pressure either.”

The study followed 41 overweight adults over the course of 12 weeks. In terms of demographic, the participants were largely black women (90 percent) with an average age of 59. Roughly half of the subjects ate 80 percent of their calories by 1pm, while the rest ate more normally, and consumed half of their calories at dinner time after 5pm.

At the end of the program, participants in both groups lost weight and experienced a drop in blood pressure. But, as noted, the study provided no definitive evidence that moving your calorie intake to earlier in the day enhanced those results. So keep this in mind if you’re going to try to lose weight with time-restricted eating. And, as always, remember the importance of what you eat is never to be overlooked. And for more on what you shouldn’t eat, make sure you’re aware of the 15 All-Time Worst Foods for Your Body.

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