Research conducted by Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, in collaboration with the University of Murcia and Tufts University found the late lunch favoured in Spain does little to aid weight loss.
Of the 420 overweight Spanish dieters that took part in the study, those that ate an early lunch lost an extra 2kg over a period of 20 weeks than late eaters. Participants who ate their main meal before 3pm lost an average of 9.9kg, compared with 7.7kg shed by the late lunchers - amounting to the equivalent of nine per cent and 11.3 per cent of their body weight.
Furthermore, those who ate their main meal late tended to consumer fewer calories at breakfast, or even skip their first meal, and were found to have a lower estimated insulin sensitivity, which could lead to diabetes.
Dr Frank Scheer of Harvard Medical School, who wrote the study, said: "This is the first large-scale prospective study to demonstrate that the timing of meals predicts weight-loss effectiveness.
"Our results indicate that late eaters displayed a slower weight-loss rate and lost significantly less weight than early eaters, suggesting that the timing of large meals could be an important factor in a weight loss program."
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