Associations between the timing of eating and weight-loss in calorically restricted healthy adults: Findings from the CALERIE study

Exp Gerontol. 2022 Aug;165:111837. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2022.111837. Epub 2022 May 20.


Calorie restriction (CR) and time-restricted eating (TRE) are distinctly different dietary management strategies with overlapping health outcomes. After two years of CR, healthy participants in the Comprehensive Assessment of Long-Term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy (CALERIE) study showed significant weight-loss relative to the ad libitum intake control group and achieved 12% CR on average. Preclinical rodent studies have shown that sustaining a consistent eating interval of 8-12 h between the first and last calories of each day-without reducing daily calorie intake-can impart health benefits that partly overlap with those imparted by CR. Preclinical CR protocols often inadvertently restrict eating interval, and conversely, clinical studies of TRE often inadvertently result in modest CR. Other factors related to daily timing of food intake, such as breakfast skipping, and early food intake also impact health outcomes. These observations have raised the possibility that CR protocols can be further optimized by adopting relevant aspects of eating patterns to boost weight loss and health outcomes. With a goal to inform CR protocols that aim to optimize eating patterns, the objective of this secondary analysis was to test aspects of daily timing of food intake associated with greater weight loss in the CALERIE study participants. We found no difference in the daily time window of energy intake between the CR and control arms. In the CALERIE trial, weight change was used as a proxy for adherence to CR, and hence we used linear models to test the relationships among CR, weight loss, and temporal aspects of daily eating pattern. We found that CR alone could explain 41% of the variance in weight loss. We tested the contribution of eating interval, time to 50% daily calorie intake, and day-to-day shifts in the time of the first (breakfast) or last meal consumed. We found that eating interval and variation in the timing of the first and last meals significantly influenced weight loss after controlling for CR. Our models suggest that shorter eating intervals are associated with greater CR (1% of the variance explained) and facilitate additional weight loss. Our models suggest that less day to day variation in first mealtime is directly associated with weight loss (6% of the variance explained). More regular first meal timing is also associated with greater CR (2% of the variance explained). Likewise, regular timing of the last daily meal is directly associated with weight loss (1% of the variance explained) and greater CR (1% of the variance explained). The time to 50% of daily calorie intake or consuming half the caloric intake earlier in the day is associated with additional CR (2% of the variance explained). In summary, these secondary analyses on CALERIE data suggest that - in order to maximize CR and weight loss - future CR protocols should encourage participants to adopt consistent timing of their first and last meals, a shorter eating window, and earlier consumption of food.

Keywords: Breakfast; CALERIE; Calorie restriction; Time restriction; Weightloss.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Caloric Restriction
  • Eating
  • Energy Intake*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Humans
  • Weight Loss*