The first human test of early time-restricted feeding is showing that this meal-timing strategy may help reduce swings in hunger and altered fat- and carbohydrate-burning patterns.

In early time-restricted feeding (eTRF), individuals eat their last meal by the mid-afternoon and do not eat again until breakfast the next morning. In a recent new study, researchers found that eating only during a much smaller window of time than people are typically used to may help with weight loss.

Researchers at the University of Alabama found that eating between 8 am and 2 pm followed by an 18-hour daily fast kept appetite levels more even throughout the day compared with eating between 8 am and 8 pm. The findings suggest that eating a very early dinner, or even skipping dinner, may have some benefits for losing weight. The body has an internal clock, and many aspects of metabolism are at their optimal functioning in the morning. It is theorized that eating in alignment with the body’s circadian clock by eating earlier in the day may positively influence health.

The current study of eTRF suggests this eating pattern may affect metabolism. This first test of eTRF in humans follows rodent studies of this approach to weight loss, which previously found that eTRF reduced fat mass and decreased the risk of chronic diseases in rodents.

The researchers conducted a study with 11 men and women between aged 20 to 45 years (mean age: 32 years). All participants were followed over 4 days of eating between 8 am and 2pm (eTRF), and 4 days of eating between 8 am and 8 pm (average feeding for Americans). The researchers then tested the impact of eTRF on calories burned, fat burned, and appetite.

To eliminate subjectivity, the researchers had all participants try both eating schedules, consuming the same number of calories both times, and completing rigorous testing under supervision. They found that although eTRF did not affect how many calories participants burned, it reduced daily hunger swings and increased fat burning during several hours at night. It also improved metabolic flexibility.

This type of information opens up an intriguing possibility for those wishing to lose weight—nearly the entire population. Early dining during the afternoon hours not only reduces eating to twice daily but also allows for the avoidance of later crowds in restaurants. But, to be successful, this approach must not include a bedtime snack, difficult for many people!




Conventional wisdom dictates that gradual weight reduction for the treatment of obesity is more apt to be sustained in the long run when compared with rapid weight loss through “crash diets” of any type.  I had always subscribed to this former notion until it was subjected to objective research—invariably a good idea that often debunks so-called “common sense.”

The following study to which I refer should form the basis of future research for confirmation; that’s how science works.

The study was entitled “The effect of rate of weight loss on long-term weight management: a randomised controlled trial,” which appeared in the journal Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, 2014.

The study was a two-phase randomized trial in a Melbourne (Australia) metropolitan hospital.  It included 204 volunteers (51 men and 153 women) aged 18—70 years, who were quite obese (body mass index between 30 and 45 kg/m2). During phase 1, they randomly assigned the subjects to enter a 12-week rapid weight loss program, or a 36-week gradual program, both aimed at a 15% weight loss. Those participants who lost 12·5% or more of their body weight during phase 1 went on a weight maintenance diet for 144 weeks (phase 2). The primary outcome was the residual weights of both groups at the end of the study (week 144).

Of the 200 participants, half were randomly assigned to the gradual weight loss group and the remaining half, the rapid weight loss group, After phase 1, 50% of the participants in the gradual weight loss group, and 81% in the rapid weight loss group achieved 12·5% or more weight loss in their allocated times, and these latter participants who had lost this weight then entered into phase 2.  At the end of this latter phase, although both gradual weight loss and rapid weight loss participants had regained most of their lost weight, there was no significant difference between the two groups (gradual weight loss regained 71·2% of their lost weight, versus rapid weight loss, 70·5%).

From these data the authors concluded “The rate of weight loss does not affect the proportion of weight regained within 144 weeks. These findings are not consistent with present dietary guidelines which recommend gradual over rapid weight loss, based on the belief that rapid weight loss is more quickly regained.”

But their conclusion, while correct, requires some qualification. First, a greater proportion of individuals in the rapid weight loss program achieved an initial significant weight reduction (-12.5%), as opposed to those in the gradual category. Second, most of the initial weight reduction was regained at the later—longer—interval in both groups. This finding is consistent with our long-held belief that those who are obese have great difficultly maintaining a satisfactory weight in the long run—no matter how they initially reduce. This, unfortunately, is the sad truth!

My conclusion is that, even though the odds for long-term success are stacked against those who are obese, they should initially try to get the weight off as promptly as possible through any possible safe program. Then work like a demon to keep it off  afterwards through whatever means one can conjure up, but—let’s face it—basic and permanent lifestyle changes will also be necessary. Personally, I have yet to find the “holy grail” for sustaining an ideal low weight in the long-term. Judging from the vast numbers of recommendations out there in the media, ads, the cyber world, etc, I don’t believe anyone else has come up with the answer either to this troubling enigma—notwithstanding all those blatant claims out there!