A camera-phone based study reveals erratic eating pattern and disrupted daily eating-fasting cycle among adults in India

PLoS One. 2017 Mar 6;12(3):e0172852. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172852. eCollection 2017.


The daily rhythm of feeding-fasting and meal-timing are emerging as important determinants of health. Circadian rhythm research in animal models and retrospective analyses of human nutrition data have shown that reduced length of overnight fasting or increased late night eating increases risk for metabolic diseases including obesity and diabetes. However, the daily rhythm in eating pattern in humans is rarely measured. Traditional methods to collect nutrition information through food diary and food log pay little attention to the timing of eating which may also change from day to day. We adopted a novel cell-phone based approach to longitudinally record all events of food and beverage intake in adults. In a feasibility study daily food-eating patterns of 93 healthy individuals were recorded for 21 days using camera phones. Analysis of the daily eating patterns of these individuals indicates deviation from conventional assumption that people eat three meals-a-day within a 12 h interval. We found that eating events are widespread throughout the day, with <30% of calories consumed before noon and >30% consumed in evening and late night hours. There was little difference in eating pattern between weekdays and weekends. In this cohort more than 50% of people spread their caloric intake events over 15 h or longer. One decile of the cohort who were spouses of shift-workers or had flexible work schedule spread their caloric intake over 20 h. Although the nutrition quality and diversity of food consumed is different between South-East Asian and Western countries, such overall disruption of daily eating-fasting rhythm is similar. Therefore, in view of hypothesis that disrupted daily eating pattern may contribute to the global increase in metabolic diseases and modification of daily eating pattern is a potential modifiable behavior to contain these diseases, monitoring eating pattern is an important aspect of lifestyle.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Energy Intake*
  • Fasting*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Public Health Surveillance*

Grants and funding

This work was partially supported by grants from American Federation of Aging Research #M14322, Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust’s grant #2012-PG-MED002, the Glenn Center for Aging, Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation to SP and UGC research award (F-30-50/2011) to NJG, and a joint grant from the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF) IUSSTF/JC- Biological Timing/JC-15- 2013/2014-15 to VK (http://www.iusstf.org/). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.