Late lunch can slow weight-loss efforts

Lunch after 3pm may be fashionable but new research shows it might not be the healthiest option.

If lunch is your main meal, eating after 3pm can be bad for your waistline, regardless of how healthy your lunch is. iStockPhoto
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Lunching late may seem fashionable but new research shows that it could slow down your weight-loss efforts.

There are benefits to making lunch your biggest meal of the day: your digestion is at its strongest and you have the rest of the day to process and burn off food. But if lunch is your main meal and you are eating it late, then, according to researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital, Tufts University in Boston and the University of Murcia in Spain (as published in the International Journal of Obesity), this is bad news for your waistline.

The study followed 420 overweight people with an average age of 42 for 20 weeks; half ate lunch before 3pm and the other half ate lunch after 3pm. Those who ate lunch late had a slower rate of weight loss as well as lower rates of insulin sensitivity, which is a known risk factor for diabetes. Even when the study accounted for factors such as total calories consumed, sleep, energy burnt and levels of appetite hormones, no significant differences were found. It seems that timing is everything.

This study only considered people who made lunch the main meal - if your evening meal is your largest then you may want to reconsider and redistribute the quantity of food more evenly throughout the day.

Skipping an evening meal altogether is not necessary, or even appropriate, but eating the majority of food before 3pm could help weight loss efforts. Avoiding sugary and sweet foods, including fruit, in the evenings will also give you an extra boost of lightness.

Laura Holland is a well-being consultant and nutritional therapist. For more information, go to