Will skipping dinner help you lose weight?

New research suggests careful timing of our meals could help with weight loss and management

Racha Adib
Racha Adib - Special to Al Arabiya English
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A new weight loss strategy was unveiled during a presentation at The Obesity Society Annual meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. The findings are backed by the first human test on Early Time-Restricted feeding (eTRF) which was found to help people lose body fat.

In eTRF, people eat their last meal by 2pm in the afternoon and don’t eat again until 8am the next morning. The new research, funded by a TOS Early Career Research Grant, found that this meal-timing strategy reduced hunger swings and increased the body’s ability to burn fat and carbohydrates, and ultimately led to fat loss.

There has been a doubling of obesity worldwide since 1980. In 2014, 39 percent of adults aged 18 and over were overweight, and 13 percent were obese. Being overweight and obesity are serious health problems and put people at an increased risk of many chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Innovative strategies might be just what we need to reverse the cycle.

The study on eTRF was conducted by Dr Peterson and colleagues, which followed 11 men and women with excess weight. In the study participants were asked to eat between 8am and 2pm (eTRF) for four days and between 8am and 8pm (average American diet) for another four days. Throughout the study, participants were asked to complete rigorous testing while they were under supervision.

Although the participants ate the same number of calories both timings, it was found that eTRF improved fat oxidation and early hunger swings among other health indicators. Rodent studies of this approach have been conducted previously and also found that eTRF reduced fat mass and decreases the risk of chronic disease.


Not only do these preliminary findings hold hope for a new weight loss strategy but they suggest for the first time that meal timings can have an effect on our metabolism. It also shows that eating in alignment with your circadian clock can positively influence your health. In this case, it’s eating earlier while your metabolism is in optimal functioning in the morning.

However it is still too early to recommend forgoing dinner altogether at this stage. Larger scale research must be conducted over a number of times first. Skipping a meal like dinner can take a toll on your system and may lead to an energy drain and irritability mainly due to a drop in sugar. Instead the learnings from this research could be translated to the age-old adage “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper”.

At the end of the day the message can’t be a one-size-fits-all. Ultimately it really depends on your lifestyle. The best way to find the right strategy for you is to schedule a visit to your local dietician. Whether you are overweight, underweight or just the right weight, a dietician will work with you to find a healthier way of eating that works for you based on your level of activity, nutrient needs and goals.

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