Study focuses on weight loss when people eat main meal earlier in the day

People who are trying to lose weight might want to adopt a European approach to planning meal times when they learn the results of a new Spanish study published in the International Journal of Obesity.

Reuters reported the study involved 420 people in southeastern Spain who were divided into two groups based on when they ate lunch, the largest meal of the day in that country. Half of the participants ate lunch before 3 p.m. and the rest after that hour.

The result was that those with the earlier lunch hour lost more weight than the later group. Both groups ate similar foods and participated in the same amount of physical activity.

“We should now seriously start to consider the timing of food – not just what we eat, but also when we eat,” said study co-author Frank Scheer, Ph.D., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

But Americans are used to having their main meal of the day at dinner rather than lunch, and would have to adjust their lunchtime eating habits to achieve similar results, another researcher told Reuters. The Spanish dieters consumed 40 percent of their daily caloric intake during lunch.

Yunsheng Ma, M.D., a nutrition researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, said the shift would involve eating more calories earlier in the day as Europeans typically do, then having a lighter meal for dinner.

The food that participants ate in the study – a Mediterranean diet with less meat and more vegetables, fruits, fish and legumes – has been touted for many years in the U.S. as a weight-conscious, heart-healthy regimen. Eating a diet rich in healthy fats such as olive oil, another mainstay of the Mediterranean diet, can also be complemented by a daily weight-loss supplement, such as Skinny D from Dr. Newton’s Naturals.