It is known that practices such as skipping meals and eating food irregularly can cause changes in our internal biological clock. This can lead to metabolic dysfunction and, ultimately, unhealthy weight gain. Some studies have related dietary intake at a specific time of day, such as dinner, with the risk of becoming overweight or obesity.
However, “none has so far shown a relationship between the distribution of dietary intake by different meals throughout the day with weight gain. With this article, we wanted to understand if the distribution of nutritional intake during the various meals would have any influence on children’s weight”, says Sofia Vilela, the first author of the research.
The research involved 1961 children from the Generation XXI birth cohort, a longitudinal study that has since 2005 included more than 8600 children from the Porto Metropolitan Area. The researchers analyzed the meals of these children, at 4 years of age, and body mass index at 7. The objective was to understand how dietary patterns at 4 influenced weight at 7.
According to Sofia Vilela, “children who have a pattern of food, characterized by skipping breakfast, having lunch later and eating after dinner, are at greater risk of becoming overweight or obesity. In fact, there is a misconception that skipping breakfast can help you lose weight, but in fact, it may have the opposite effect, since whoever doesn´t eat this meal ends up eating more because they aren´t satiated. And that’s what we saw in these children”.
In addition, food intake at dinner time also appears to be a differentiating factor. This is because, “previous studies suggest that our body doesn´t use the calories ingested during the night so effectively, which may be one of the factors causing a disturbance in our internal biological clock. Daytime periods seem to be the most effective for the body to expend energy“, she explains.
The research underlines that, in addition to the nutritional profile of children’s diet, mealtime is also relevant for the prevention of overweight and obesity. It is advisable that the highest proportion of food is consumed for breakfast, lunch and dinner and that the amounts are decreased throughout the day. Dinner may be dispensable.
The study is entitled Chrono-Nutrition: The Relationship Between Time-of-Energy and Macronutrient Intake and Children’s Body Weight Status. The researchers Carla Lopes, Andreia Oliveira and Milton Severo also participated in the study.