Dieters have long been told they should breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper.
Now scientists have confirmed the principle...and even quantified the difference it can make to your weight loss.
Researchers gave women most of their calories either at breakfast or dinner, then monitored the two groups over 12 weeks.
Eating a big breakfast fights obesity and diseases including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems
The researchers, from Tel Aviv University, found there were other health benefits as well. The breakfast group saw their levels of ghrelin, an appetite hormone, dramatically decrease.
And they say it's not only the food that we eat, but when we eat it that can have a big impact on our health.
So the time of day we eat impacts the way our bodies process food, says Professor Daniela Jakubowicz, of Tel Aviv University in Israel.
At the end of the study, those on the breakfast plan lost an average of 19.1lbs. But the people eating most of their calories at the end of the day lost just 7.9lbs.
The body's metabolism is governed by the circadian rhythm - the biological process that the body follows over a 24 hour cycle.
The breakfast group lost an average of 3.3in from their waistlines, compared to 1.5in for those eating a big dinner.
These results, published in the journal Obesity, indicate that proper meal timing can make an important contribution towards managing obesity and promoting an overall healthy lifestyle.
To find out the impact of meal timing on weight loss and health, Professor Jakubowicz and her fellow researchers conducted a study in which 93 obese women were randomly assigned to one of two groups.
Each consumed a moderate-carbohydrate, moderate-fat diet totalling 1,400 calories daily over three months.
The first group consumed 700 calories at breakfast, 500 at lunch, and 200 at dinner.
The second group ate a 200 calorie breakfast, 500 calorie lunch, and 700 calorie dinner. The 700 calorie breakfast and dinner included the same foods.
Those who eat their largest daily meal at breakfast are far more likely to lose weight and waist circumference than those who eat a large dinner
By the end of the study, participants in the ‘big breakfast’ group had lost an average of 17.8 pounds each, and three inches off their waist, compared to a 7.3 pounds and 1.4 inches for participants in the ‘big dinner’ group.
According to Professor Jakubowicz, those in the ‘big breakfast’ group were found to have significantly lower levels of a hunger-regulating hormone, an indication that they were more satiated and had less desire for snacking later in the day, than their counterparts in the ‘big dinner’ group.
The ‘big breakfast’ group also showed a more significant decrease in insulin, glucose, and triglyceride levels than those in the ‘big dinner’ group.
More importantly, they did not experience the high spikes in blood glucose levels that typically occur after a meal.
Peaks in blood sugar levels are considered even more harmful than sustained high blood glucose levels, leading to high blood pressure and greater strain on the heart.
The findings suggest that people should adopt a well thought-out meal schedule, in addition to proper nutrition and exercise, to optimise weight loss and general health.
Professor Jakubowicz said: ‘Eating the right foods at the wrong times can not only slow down weight loss, it can also be harmful. Our study found those in the big dinner group actually increased fat levels in their body, despite their weight loss.’
She suggests that people could improve their health significantly by cutting out late night snacking.
She said: ‘Mindless eating in front of the computer or television, especially in the late evening hours, is a huge contributor to the obesity epidemic.
'It increases not only poundage, but the risk of cardiovascular disease - making that midnight sugar rush more costly than it appears.’
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