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  • Sophia Kamveris, MS, RD

Timing of Meals Matters!


I’ve spent the last few days at a conference, well attended by physicians and other allied health professionals (from all over the world) that descend on Boston once a year for the Cardiometabolic Health Congress. The general sessions discuss the latest research studies in heart disease, diabetes, renal disease, and obesity.

Ironically, one of my more interesting talks was on the importance of sleep rhythms; seeing as I got up at 4:45 AM that morning to get to the conference! The presenter was Frank Scheer, PhD at the Harvard Medical School and director of the Medical Chronobiology Program in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women's Hospital. He spoke on the effect of the circadian rhythm on obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Besides our hearts pumping away, each and every cell in our body ticks to the same internal pacemaker beat. That's known as circadian rhythm- the biological process that the body follows over a 24-hour cycle. When this rhythm gets disturbed, there are consequences. He noted that statistics show that most heart attacks occur between 6AM and noon, and that asthma is generally worse at night. He also cited that shift-worker schedules can increase the risk of obesity and diabetes. This can occur because circadian misalignment impairs glucose tolerance. Cells in the body utilize glucose better in the morning versus later on during the day. Glucose that hangs around the blood too long can not only damage blood vessels but it can lead to health dangers, including insulin resistance and pre-diabetes.

In a study reported (April 2013 edition International Journal of Obesity) by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the University of Murcia (Spain) and Tufts University, they found that when you eat helps you to lose weight. They studied 420 (female, 40-ish) overweight subjects in Spain for a 20-week period. They divided the participants into two study groups: early eaters (ate lunch anytime before 3PM) and late eaters (ate after 3PM; many skipped breakfast). Number of calories consumed and burned, appetite hormone levels, and number of hours slept were similar in both groups.

RESULT: The researchers found that early eaters lost significantly more weight than late eaters, who experienced a much slower rate of weight loss. The researchers hypothesized that energy expenditure after an earlier meal is greater, and are further researching if the circadian rhythm has something to do with it.

According to Dr Scheer, “This is the first large-scale prospective study to demonstrate that the timing of meals predicts weight-loss effectiveness…our results indicate that late eaters displayed a slower weight-loss rate and lost significantly less weight than early eaters, suggesting that the timing of large meals could be an important factor in a weight loss program.”

So, banking calories for another meal may not be the way to go if you are trying to lose weight. I am still in favor of that old adage that recommends eating breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper!

Sophie


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Sophia Kamveris, MS, RD, LDN

22 Mill Street-Suite 105

Arlington, MA 02474

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