London: Most people enjoy a well-earned lie-in on the weekend, meaning their breakfast gets pushed back to brunch. But eating meals later on Saturday and Sunday may cause weight gain – even if you consume the same amount of calories, research suggests.
Scientists found people who ate three-and-a-half hours later on weekends had BMIs 1.3 units higher, compared to those who stuck to their routine. This remained true despite the quality of their diet, how long they slept for or how much they exercised.
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Disruption to normal eating schedules can result in extra fat around the waistline because our bodies aren’t used to processing food at that time, experts say. University of Barcelona researchers, behind the study, say our biological clocks, called circadian systems, prepare the metabolism to break down food at specific times.
Cells are programmed in this way so they know when to spend energy taking up or utilizing specific nutrients. The metabolism becomes sluggish at breaking down food when it is caught off-guard by eating at different times. This seems to lead to the storage of extra fat.
The researchers surveyed more than 1,100 students from Spain and Mexico to come to the conclusion. They asked participants what time they normally ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner on weekdays and weekends. Almost two-thirds ate meals an hour later on their days off and breakfast was the most delayed meal, tending to become brunch.
The study found the greater the time difference between weekday and weekend meals, the more likely the students were to be overweight. Eating three-and-a-half hours later on weekends seemed to cause the most extreme weight gain, the equivalent of having brunch on a Saturday at 11.30 am compared to breakfast on a Friday at 8 am.
People who ate this late on the weekend had a BMI of 1.3 units higher than participants who ate at roughly the same time on weekdays and weekends. Dropping 1.3 BMI units is equivalent to someone who is 170cm tall and weighs 14 stone/196lbs (90kg) losing half a stone/7lbs (4kg), NewScientist reports.
Lead researcher Maria Fernanda Zerón-Ruggerio said the results suggest overweight people could use meal timing as a fat loss method.
She told New Scientist: ‘Say you usually have breakfast at 7 am but then on weekends you have it at 9 am. ‘Your biological clock doesn’t know it’s the weekend so it’s going to prepare your body to eat at 7 am, and then it gets confused when you actually eat at 9 am.’
Responding to the study, Mhairi Brown a London-based nutritionist at campaign group Action on Sugar said it was an ‘interesting study’. read more at dailymail