(CNN) — Can’t help but eat something before bed? Or do you prefer to wait a few hours after getting up to eat?
According to a new study, the timing of meals may not influence weight as much as previously thought.
The study tracked the portion sizes and meal times of 547 people, along with data on their health and weight, over six years. The data did not show any relationship between the interval of the day in which people ate their meals and their weight, according to the study published Wednesday in the academic journal Journal of the American Heart Association.
Restricting meal times, as seen in dietary trends like intermittent fasting, has been a popular method of trying to lose weight in recent years.
However, the researchers found no relationship between restricted meal times and weight loss, said Dr. Wendy Bennett, the study’s principal investigator and an associate professor of medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the College of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Dr. Bennett noted that the study looked at how long people ate after waking up, how long they spent eating throughout the day, and how close their meals were to bedtime.
Instead, smaller meals were associated with weight loss, he said.
“Based on other studies that have been published, including ours, we are beginning to think that it is very likely that the timing of meals throughout the day does not immediately translate into weight loss,” Bennett said, adding the caveat. that for some people, timing of meals can be a useful tool in tracking nutrition.
The results of this study should be taken with a grain of salt, the experts cautioned.
There were few racial and ethnic minorities among the participants, said Dr. Fatima Cody, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. There are also many social determinants of health, such as stress and people’s environment, that could interfere with the data, Cody added.
These factors could be important to better understand the effects of meal timing, added Alice Lichtenstein, a professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University.
“I suspect that if you looked at the data more closely, there would be subgroups [en los que el horario de las comidas] could have had a significant effect,” Lichtenstein said.
This study was observational, Bennett noted, meaning they looked at existing patterns for the study rather than making changes to a randomized group. More work is being done on this issue, he added.
Quality better than quantity
The main conclusions are that there is no single strategy that works for everyone when it comes to nutrition, and that the quality of food matters, Lichtenstein said.
“If you work hard to eat a healthy diet and stay physically active, you’re less likely to get diabetes, chronic kidney disease, obstructive pulmonary disease, and hypertension,” Lichtenstein says.
It’s the boring stuff that no one wants to hear, she added, but there’s nothing better than eating fruits and vegetables and exercising to control your weight.
For some people, trying intermittent fasting or restricting eating intervals can be a helpful way to take note of personal trends, but many people can’t keep it up long enough to see long-term change, or maintain weight off. lose, Lichtenstein added.
Cody, who is an Obesity Medicine physician at Boston Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center, doesn’t like to focus too much on any calorie restriction or intermittent fasting, he said. In her place, she wants her clients to look at the nutritional value of the food they eat.
For the body, 100 calories of gummy bears is not the same as 100 calories of oatmeal with fruit and nuts.
But different approaches work best in different lifestyles, and each should work with its own doctor and its own body without stress or embarrassment, Cody said.
If a nutritional strategy works for someone else, he said, “it just means someone’s body responded and someone else’s didn’t. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. It just means it’s not what your body needed.”
— CNN’s Jen Christensen contributed to this report.