Late eating is associated with cardiometabolic risk traits, obesogenic behaviors, and impaired weight loss

Am J Clin Nutr. 2021 Jan 4;113(1):154-161. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqaa264.


Background: There is a paucity of evidence regarding the role of food timing on cardiometabolic health and weight loss in adults.

Objectives: To determine whether late eating is cross-sectionally associated with obesity and cardiometabolic risk factors at baseline; and whether late eating is associated with weight loss rate and success following a weight loss intervention protocol. Also, to identify obesogenic behaviors and weight loss barriers associated with late eating.

Methods: Participants were recruited from a weight-loss program in Spain. Upon recruitment, the midpoint of meal intake was determined by calculating the midway point between breakfast and dinner times, and dietary composition was determined from diet recall. Population median for the midpoint of meal intake was used to stratify participants into early (before 14:54) and late (after 14:54) eaters. Cardiometabolic and satiety hormonal profiles were determined from fasting blood samples collected prior to intervention. Weekly weight loss and barriers were evaluated during the ∼19-wk program. Linear and logistic regression models were used to assess differences between late and early eaters in cardiometabolic traits, satiety hormones, obesogenic behaviors, and weight loss, adjusted for age, sex, clinic site, year of recruitment, and baseline BMI.

Results: A total of 3362 adults [mean (SD): age: 41 (14) y; 79.2% women, BMI: 31.05 (5.58) kg/m2] were enrolled. At baseline, no differences were observed in energy intake or physical activity levels between early and late eaters (P >0.05). Late eaters had higher BMI, higher concentrations of triglycerides, and lower insulin sensitivity compared with early eaters (all P <0.05) prior to intervention. In addition, late eaters had higher concentrations of the satiety hormone leptin in the morning (P = 0.001). On average, late eaters had an average 80 g lower weekly rate of weight loss [early, 585 (667) g/wk; late, 505 (467) g/wk; P = 0.008], higher odds of having weight-loss barriers [OR (95% CI): 1.22 (1.03, 1.46); P = 0.025], and lower odds of motivation for weight loss [0.81 (0.66, 0.99); P = 0.044] compared with early eaters.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that late eating is associated with cardiometabolic risk factors and reduced efficacy of a weight-loss intervention. Insights into the characteristics and behaviors related to late eating may be useful in the development of future interventions aimed at advancing the timing of food intake.

Keywords: cardiometabolic profiles; chrono-nutrition; food timing; ghrelin; late eating; leptin; weight loss.