The role that meal pattern plays in weight regulation is a popular topic of scientific and common debate. The goal of this study was to evaluate the relationship between meal timing with caloric intake and body mass index (BMI). We hypothesized that late meal timing and eating closer to sleep onset time would be associated with greater energy intake and higher BMI. Participants included 59 individuals recruited from the community. Rest/activity patterns were assessed using 7 days of wrist actigraphy, and caloric intake was evaluated using 7 days of diet logs. Results demonstrated that the timing of meals was associated with overall energy intake but not with BMI. In multivariate analyses controlling for age, sex, sleep duration, and timing, eating more frequently, later timing of the last meal, and a shorter duration between last meal and sleep onset predicted higher total caloric intake. In a mediational model, eating frequency explained the relationship between eating closer to sleep onset and total caloric intake. Results suggest that later relative timing of meals, particularly eating close to sleep, could lead to weight gain due to a greater number of eating occasions and higher total daily caloric intake. These findings have important implications for the development of novel, time-based interventions for weight management.
Keywords: Caloric intake; Eating late; Human; Meal timing; Sleep; Sleep onset.
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