Last Updated on June 25, 2016 at 5:31 PM
Medindia Exclusive - Interviews and In depth Reports
  • When we eat is an important factor in weight loss
  • Morning and night shifts at work and jet lag due to travel affect eating patterns and schedule.
  • Eating at the right time is recommended by a new study
Strict meal times are a thing of the past now with fast food joints and hectic work schedules the order of the day. However, there have been two significant studies that have explored the relevance of meal timings and weight loss. One of the studies was conducted by researchers from King's College London, Newcastle University, and published in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, while the other study was conducted at the Nestlé Research Centre.

The studied delved into how our internal clock can be affected by our metabolic processes based on
  • Timing
  • Size
  • Quality of our meals
These factors are influenced by the life that we lead and the society that we live in.
Eating on Time and Losing Weight Go Hand in Hand

People Who Work on Shifts: It has long been known that people who work on shifts are at a high risk of gaining weight and developing diabetes due to their irregular sleep-eat cycles. Their circadian rhythm is grossly affected and they undergo massive changes in their metabolic processes.

Society: Every society has certain beliefs and characteristics that dictate the meal patterns of individuals. The study found that people in France loved social drinking and eating and for them lunch was the main meal of the day. Therefore they consumed maximum calories during that part of the day. This did not hold true in Central England where people tend to snack on high-calorie food throughout the day interspersed with periods of fasting.

"He who eats at regular interval, maintains good health". - Anonymous

Eating Breakfast: Many people tend to skip breakfast as they are rushing to work or college. A study from Urmea University that asked University students if they had breakfast revealed that a considerable number did not. Other studies have shown how eating breakfast is vital to maintaining optimum energy levels during the day.

Commenting on the research about meal timings Dr. Gerda Pot, Visiting Lecturer in the Diabetes and Nutritional Sciences Division at King's College London said, "Whilst we have a much better understanding today of what we should be eating, we are still left with the question as to which meal should provide us with the most energy."

Dr Pot also believes that there could be some truth in the adage "Eat breakfast like an emperor, lunch like a king and dinner like a pauper." Eating additional calories during the last meal of the day could lead to weight gain. However, the energy requirements could vary from one person to another and the kind of work that they do.

Apart from meal times, the time at which we exercise also plays an important role in weight loss Energy levels need to be optimum for maximum benefit.

We spoke to Dr Dharini Krishnan about the significance of the study and the eating patterns followed in India. Dr Dharini Krishnan is a Consultant Dietitian from Chennai and has appeared in popular shows on Nutrition, creating awareness about healthy eating.

Dr Dharini Krishnan - Consultant Dietitian

Q) What is the general eating patterns in India?

A)    "Those who follow the traditional pattern of eating, they eat around 10.30 or 11 am. They then have a small tiffin at 3 pm and Dinner by 7 pm."

"Office goers especially those who travel long distances have no time to eat in the morning.They drink a cup of coffee or tea, go to the food court or breakfast provided by the office by 8 or 9 am. Lunch and late evening tea are provided by the office as employees are expected to work 12 to 14 hours a day. Then they usually eat on the way home as it is too late to fix anything for dinner."

Q) Whether BPO culture has significantly affected eating patterns or have we, over the years, learnt to manage?

A)    "The BPO sector has significantly affected the eating pattern of our youngsters. They go to bed late and get up late. So their breakfast is a heavy meal at 10:30 or 11 am. Then they have something light and leave to work at 2 pm. They continue to work till 2 or 4 am. So they snack through the night to stay awake. Some companies also provide pizza, burger and french fries to keep them going through the night. Those who start their journey into the BPO sector with 48 or 50 kilos end up with a 65 to 80 kilos by the end of two years."

Q) Chennai is known to rise early and sleep early too, compared to other metropolitan cities, is that reflected in our eating patterns too?

A)    "Early to rise provides time for exercise and hence leads to an early breakfast, followed by Lunch by 1 pm and Dinner by 8.30 pm. Tea and coffee shops are open as early as 5 am to provide for the walkers and bikers."

Q) Instead of skipping a meal, what snacks would you recommend office goers and those who are hard pressed for time?

A)    "Never skip a meal. A snack cannot replace a meal as snacks are small amounts of food which should be within 100 to 150 calories. So they will not have a balance of nutrients."

"Those hard pressed for time can fix a ragi porridge with a fruit. Iddlies (steamed rice cake) get ready in a jiffy and can be taken with Idli podi which can be mixed with curd instead of oil. Keep fruits ready which could be had immediately after the exercise. Then freshen up and have a small breakfast and leave. Previous evening phulka's can be rolled with a healthy vegetable stuffing to make a quick breakfast."

Staying slim is not as important as staying healthy, irregular meal timings add to weight woes. Instead, ensuring that the body gets a wholesome meal at regular intervals will keep energy levels high and lower risk of associated diseases.

Reference :
  1. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society
Source: Medindia

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