In a bid to shed a few extra pounds, a strategy plenty of people resort to is limiting their food intake to certain specific hours of the day. The prevailing opinion is that this weight loss method edges out most others as it affords the body extra time to burn through its fat stores. However, researchers from John Hopkins University have reported that that might not be entirely true.

According to their research published in The Journal of the American Heart Association, meal time isn’t that strong a determinant of weight loss like most people think, but meal frequency and meal size however is.

Time-restricted dieting, or intermittent fasting, has seen widespread adoption in recent years for several reasons that go beyond even weight gain. It has been reported to modify risk factors for conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, and also improve conditions associated with inflammation like arthritis, asthma, and even Alzheimer’s disease. 

As helpful as these extra benefits may be, limiting meals to certain hours of the day or even several days of the week—which is the foundation on which this form of dieting was built—simply isn’t an efficient method of long-term weight loss, according to the team.

Following a study involving over 500 adults of different weights, the authors report that no link exists between meal window and body size.

“Although experimental studies have suggested that time‐restricted eating could improve circadian rhythms and play a role in metabolic regulation, our study did not detect an association in a population with a wide range of body weights,” the authors write in the paper.

Study Methodology

A total of 547 adults aged 18 and older were involved in this study. All participants had obtainable health records from one of three health facilities and used a smartphone app to log most of their activities for a six-month period. Sleeping time, waking time, meal time, and meal size—all within 24 hours—were logged on the app.

The data provided was then compared to the weights of each participant both before enrollment and during the period of the study to establish any connections. 


The results obtained demonstrated a linear relationship between meal size and weight gain and not meal time.

Researchers found that participants who took in large and medium meals of more than 1,000 calories daily put on more weight, suggesting a strong association between meal size, meal frequency, and weight gain.

Meanwhile, participants who took in more small meals (less than 500 calories daily) were at a reduced risk of weight gain. This led the team to conclude that timing doesn’t matter as much when it comes to preventing weight gain or even boosting weight loss.

The relationship between mealtime and weight may have been confirmed by several earlier experimental studies. However, randomized trials with a wide range of body weights do not reflect any such connections, and the study authors maintain that their results are in line with that. 

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