People wanting to lose weight should limit the time they eat to an eight-hour window.
The ideal is to have breakfast at 7am and eat your last meal as early as 3pm, say researchers from the University of Alabama.
When it’s combined with a calorie-controlled diet, people can lose as much as a stone (6.3 Kg) in 14 weeks.
The researchers tested the ‘food window’ on a group of 90 obese people; all of them were put on a calorie-controlled diet and half were also told to eat between 7am and 3pm.
They discovered the food window was a super-booster for weight loss. Those who ate the special diet at normal times lost around nine pounds (4 Kg), but others having their last meal at 3pm lost an additional five pounds (2 Kg).
The groups were encouraged to follow the diet for six days a week, and also exercise for between 75 and 150 minutes a week.
Restricting eating times was equivalent to reducing daily calorie input by a further 214 calories, the researchers said.
The window means the body fasts for 16 hours, and this encourages fat burning. Although it was a very early time for a last meal, the researchers said that most of the participants were able to stick to it, and around 40 percent said they would continue with the practise when the study had finished.
Advocates of intermittent fasting say that the body starts to burn fat after going without food for around 14 hours; having a later evening meal at around 7pm means breakfast would be at around 9am the next day.
JAMA Internal Medicine, 2022; doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2022.3050