Trying to lose weight? It's all well and good to watch what you eat, but a new study has shown that keeping an eye on the clock is just important as counting those calories.
Researchers found that people who eat their main meal earlier in the day have a better chance of shedding weight than those who eat later.
Monitoring the weight loss of two groups, those who ate lunch before 3pm and late eaters who had their main meal later in the day, the study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that the latter group lost significantly less weight.
The weight that late-lunchers did lose dropped off at a significantly slower rate.
Study leader Dr Frank Scheer from the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston said the study of 420 overweight people who followed a 20-week weight-loss treatment said the findings could help develop more effective weight-loss plans.
"This is the first large-scale prospective study to demonstrate that the timing of meals predicts weight-loss effectiveness," he said.
The researchers found that timing of other, smaller, meals did not play a role in the success of weight loss, suggesting the timing of lunch was an important and independent factor in weight loss success.
Late eaters were also more likely to eat fewer calories during breakfast or skip the day's first meal all together, and exhibit risk factors for diabetes.
"This study emphasises that the timing of food intake itself may play a significant role in weight regulation," said study co-author Dr Marta Garaulet from the University of Murcia.
"Novel therapeutic strategies should incorporate not only the caloric intake and macronutrient distribution, as it is classically done, but also the timing of food."