Smartphone study: irregular eating makes us fat

Smartphone study: irregular eating makes us fat

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People in the United States eat very irregularly
Eating regularly in a certain time frame can bring health benefits. Scientists have already been able to find this out in animal studies. The impact of mealtime on human health was previously unknown. US researchers have now been able to gain interesting insights into this from a smartphone study and recently published it in the specialist magazine “Cell Metabolism”.

Are three fixed meals a day a relic from earlier times?
Breakfast at seven o'clock, lunch at twelve o'clock and dinner at 7:00 p.m .: the meal plan used to look like this in many families in earlier times. But today, apparently, food intake is rarely divided into three meals within twelve hours. At least in the USA - because here the largest part of the population feeds irregularly in a time window of more than 15 hours a day.

150 subjects take pictures of their food every day
This is the conclusion reached by scientists from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla (California). As the news agency "dpa" reports, the researchers were able to collect exact data on the nutrition of volunteers for the first time for their investigation. This was made possible by the use of smartphones, with which more than 150 volunteers photographed their food every day for three weeks. In parallel, the scientists used an app to document the times and places where the participants took their meals.

"So far, most nutritional studies have asked for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks," said senior author Satchidananda Panda in a statement from the Salk Institute. However, by using the photo app, it was possible to get information about the actual eating behavior of the test subjects.

One third of the daily calorie intake after 6 p.m.
It was shown that more than half of the adult participants ate very irregularly - and that in principle over the entire waking period. Only a quarter of the daily amount of calories was consumed by lunchtime, while a third of the energy was consumed after 18 hours. "The context of the pictures spoke volumes - for example, when meals were taken next to a keyboard, in bed, while watching TV, on the sidewalk, in the car or while refueling," reports the Shubhroz Gill study.

The researchers were also able to gain insights into the eating habits of the US study participants. According to this, coffee and milk in the morning, alcohol in the evening and tea were consumed throughout the day. In addition, the subjects often consumed yogurt in the morning, sandwiches and burgers at noon, and often vegetables and ice cream in the evening. Photos of chocolate and other sweets were also taken from 10 a.m.

Subjects lose 3.5% of their excess weight after four months
As the Salk Institute reports, the researchers selected an additional eight overweight participants who normally consumed food for more than 14 hours a day. They were offered the option to limit their food intake to 10 to 11 hours a day for 16 weeks without having to limit their calorie intake. The participants received their personal “feedogram” every week, which documented the previous weight loss. After the four months, an interesting result was shown, since the test subjects had lost an average of 3.5% of their excess weight and also reported more energy and better sleep.

600 million adults worldwide are affected by obesity
An important finding, because obesity is becoming an ever bigger problem. In 2014, a good 1.9 billion adults were overweight, of whom 600 million suffered from obesity. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this accordingly represents a “global epidemic” that is spreading rapidly and is increasingly affecting poor countries. In the United States, 34 percent of all adults are considered to be pathologically overweight, in Germany the proportion is just under 15%. A risk that should not be underestimated, because obesity is now the most important cause of diabetes, high blood pressure, strokes and certain types of cancer.

Changing meal times can be risky
Nevertheless, the results of the study should not raise too much hope in the fight against the pounds. "Still, you shouldn't conclude that changing eating times is the only way to improve your health," said Panda. In addition, such a change could pose health risks, because “this can also be risky for people with undiagnosed hypoglycemia,” adds the scientist.

"The study is about developing methods and it provides a preliminary look at what and when people eat," Panda sums up. Now, however, further, larger studies are necessary, e.g. to Collect data from shift workers and from different socio-economic groups. This is the only way to create a more complete picture and examine socio-economic differences. (No)

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