Total Calorie Reduction May Outperform Intermittent Fasting, Suggests Study

Studies indicate that meal size and frequency play an integral part in weight gain or loss more so than time between eating sessions.
Intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating has become increasingly popular, yet its effect on weight control remains unclear. While restricting one’s overall eating window throughout the day may help in some instances, its overall effect remains unproven.

This study examined the correlation between time from initial meal to final meal and weight change. Over 550 individuals (18 years or older) participated in this research study and all had at least one height and weight measurement recorded within 2 years prior to enrolling for this research project.

At least 80% of participants self-identified themselves as white individuals; 12% as Black individuals and approximately 3% as Asian individuals. Of the participants who had self-reported weight recorded in health records, most reported having attained at least some college education; 51 was the average age and their BMI (30.8 was considered obese. Follow-up for weight recorded was estimated to last an average of 6.3 years).

Individuals enrolling with a higher BMI were more likely to be Black individuals, older, have hypertension or Type 2 diabetes, exercise less, have a lower education level, consume fewer vegetables and fruit and sleep faster compared to individuals who had a lower BMI.

An app was designed for participants to record eating, sleeping, and awakening times over each 24-hour window in real-time. Text messages, emails, and in-app notifications prompted individuals to use the app as often as possible during both month one of treatment as well as power weeks – one week per month during treatment phase of study.

Based on the timing of daily eating and sleeping captured in a mobile app, the following metrics could be assessed:

Every day, we monitored the duration from initial meal to final meal per day; from waking to initial meal; and from final meal to sleep. A median was then determined for all completed days for each individual.

Analysis of Data Found:

Meal timing was uncorrelated with weight change throughout a six year follow up. This included initial to final meal duration from waking up until eating first meal to sleeping time and total duration of sleep time.
Over 6 years, eating too many large (1K+ calories per meal) or medium meals (501 to 1000 Calories per meal) was linked to an increase in weight; conversely, having more small (500 Calories or Less) meals each day led to a reduction.
Average time from initial to final meal was 11.5 hours on average; awakening-to-initial meal interval measured was 1.6 hours; final meal-to-sleep interval averaged 4 hours, while sleep duration measured was an average of 7.5 hours.
The study did not detect any correlation between meal timing and bodyweight change among individuals with various bodyweight levels.
Past research suggests intermittent fasting could help regulate metabolism and improve bodily rhythms; however, this study of individuals from diverse body weight categories did not find such an association.

Researchers recognize the study had limitations. Their assessment did not capture complex interactions between frequency and timing of eating as well as cause-and-effect relationships because this observational research was performed.

Before enrolling participants into their study, researchers were also unable to ascertain if weight loss was deliberate and were unable to account for preexisting health issues that could potentially influence results.