The Effects of Time-Restricted Eating versus Standard Dietary Advice on Weight, Metabolic Health and the Consumption of Processed Food: A Pragmatic Randomised Controlled Trial in Community-Based Adults

Nutrients. 2021 Mar 23;13(3):1042. doi: 10.3390/nu13031042.


Weight loss is key to controlling the increasing prevalence of metabolic syndrome (MS) and its components, i.e., central obesity, hypertension, prediabetes and dyslipidaemia. The goals of our study were two-fold. First, we characterised the relationships between eating duration, unprocessed and processed food consumption and metabolic health. During 4 weeks of observation, 213 adults used a smartphone application to record food and drink consumption, which was annotated for food processing levels following the NOVA classification. Low consumption of unprocessed food and low physical activity showed significant associations with multiple MS components. Second, in a pragmatic randomised controlled trial, we compared the metabolic benefits of 12 h time-restricted eating (TRE) to standard dietary advice (SDA) in 54 adults with an eating duration > 14 h and at least one MS component. After 6 months, those randomised to TRE lost 1.6% of initial body weight (SD 2.9, p = 0.01), compared to the absence of weight loss with SDA (-1.1%, SD 3.5, p = 0.19). There was no significant difference in weight loss between TRE and SDA (between-group difference -0.88%, 95% confidence interval -3.1 to 1.3, p = 0.43). Our results show the potential of smartphone records to predict metabolic health and highlight that further research is needed to improve individual responses to TRE such as a shorter eating window or its actual clock time.

Keywords: NOVA classification; dietary advice; eating pattern; metabolic syndrome; processed food; time-restricted eating; weight loss.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Composition
  • Body Weight*
  • Diet Therapy / methods
  • Diet*
  • Eating*
  • Exercise
  • Fast Foods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Therapy
  • Obesity / diet therapy
  • Smartphone
  • Time Factors
  • Weight Loss
  • Young Adult