Are large dinners associated with excess weight, and does eating a smaller dinner achieve greater weight loss? A systematic review and meta-analysis

Br J Nutr. 2017 Oct;118(8):616-628. doi: 10.1017/S0007114517002550. Epub 2017 Oct 2.


There are suggestions that large evening meals are associated with greater BMI. This study reviewed systematically the association between evening energy intake and weight in adults and aimed to determine whether reducing evening intake achieves weight loss. Databases searched were MEDLINE, PubMed, Cinahl, Web of Science, Cochrane Library of Clinical Trials, EMBASE and SCOPUS. Eligible observational studies investigated the relationship between BMI and evening energy intake. Eligible intervention trials compared weight change between groups where the proportion of evening intake was manipulated. Evening intake was defined as energy consumed during a certain time - for example 18.00-21.00 hours - or self-defined meal slots - that is 'dinner'. The search yielded 121 full texts that were reviewed for eligibility by two independent reviewers. In all, ten observational studies and eight clinical trials were included in the systematic review with four and five included in the meta-analyses, respectively. Four observational studies showed a positive association between large evening intake and BMI, five showed no association and one showed an inverse relationship. The meta-analysis of observational studies showed a non-significant trend between BMI and evening intake (P=0·06). The meta-analysis of intervention trials showed no difference in weight change between small and large dinner groups (-0·89 kg; 95 % CI -2·52, 0·75, P=0·29). This analysis was limited by significant heterogeneity, and many trials had an unknown or high risk of bias. Recommendations to reduce evening intake for weight loss cannot be substantiated by clinical evidence, and more well-controlled intervention trials are needed.

Keywords: NES Night eating syndrome; TDEI total daily energy intake; Circadian rhythms; Energy intakes; Meal patterns; Meal timings; Obesity; Weight loss.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Databases, Factual
  • Diet*
  • Humans
  • Meals*
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Obesity / diet therapy
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Portion Size*
  • Weight Loss*