A British research team has shown that delaying breakfast by an hour and a half and postponing dinner by the same amount of time makes us lose twice as much body fat, even in the presence of a normocaloric diet. The researchers conducted a pilot study with few participants, but soon they will try to confirm the results with a larger group sample.

Delaying your breakfast and anticipating dinner causes you to lose twice your body fat, even while maintaining a normal diet. In other words, this beahviour helps to lose weight more effectively, even more so during a diet aimed at improving one's health. This was demonstrated by a research team of the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Surrey, Great Britain, which conducted a small pilot study with just 16 participants, all not engaged in restrictive diets and who had kept their weight constant in the previous six months.

The researchers, coordinated by Professor Jonathan D. Johnston, a chronobiology expert, before starting the research asked the participants – men and women aged between 29 and 57 – to fill in a table in which to indicate the times when they woke up, had breakfast, went to sleep and had dinner. Once the data have been obtained, the researchers have conducted clinical tests on their health, gathering information on body weight, fat mass and other metabolic data, in particular on sugars and lipids. After the visits the participants were divided into two groups: the first was asked to delay breakfast by 90 minutes and to anticipate by 90 minute dinner for 10 weeks, while the second, the classic control group, was asked to keep their eating habits in the same span of time.

At the end of the experiment, Johnston and colleagues visited again the participants, finding that those in the first group had lost twice their body fat compared to the participants in the control group. "Although small, the study provides valuable information on how small changes in meal times can have benefits for our bodies. The reduction of body fat decreases the risk of obesity and related diseases, so it is vital to improve our overall health", said the lead author of the research. The reasons behind such a marked difference in body fat loss – while maintaining the same calories – lies in our metabolism, which processes what we eat differently according to time, related to so-called circadian rhythms. Even the most prolonged period of fasting according to researchers plays an important role.

Despite the positive results, many of the participants found it difficult to apply the new schedules due to work commitments. The frenetic modern life, in fact, often requires a precise time for eating, and so delaying the breakfast by an hour and a half and anticipate dinner by the same time is not simple at all. The details of the research, the results of which will be verified with a larger number of participants, have been published in the specialized scientific Journal of Nutritional Sciences.