Can I lose weight if I stop eating by 8pm?

If only losing weight were as easy as that. There is no good evidence that humans metabolise calories any differently in the evening than at other times, so this “hard stop” at 8pm works only if it helps you eat fewer calories. Our normal circadian rhythms (body clocks) seem to encourage eating in the evening – few people are hungriest in the morning. A study using an app to monitor food intake found more than half of the subjects ate during a 15-hour period each day. Less than a quarter of calories were eaten before noon and more than 35% after 6pm. When overweight people who ate for more than 14 hours a day were restricted to eating for 10 to 11 hours over a period of 16 weeks, they lost weight and slept better.

This builds on work at the Salk Institute in California showing mice that were allowed to eat only for eight hours at night when they were most active, and forced to fast for 16 hours a day, were slim despite being fed a high-fat diet. They were as lean as those in a control group on regular food, and proved the fittest on an exercise wheel.

The study spawned a slew of media articles suggesting an ice-cream eaten at midday was somehow metabolised better than one enjoyed during House Of Cards. But mice are not humans. Research shows that eating at night is associated with weight gain because munching is done on high-fat snacks rather than celery sticks. The longer people stay up, the more likely they are to take in more calories – up to two pounds a month, according to a study. Anything that restricts calorie intake, such as closing the kitchen at eight, will help lose weight, but only if the calories eaten beforehand and the energy expended are balanced out.

Source: The Guardian April 2016