Eating your main meal late in the day may make it harder to lose weight. (ISTOCKPHOTO)
The question

Eating the main meal of the day in the evening is common practice in most American households. Does consuming the largest meal at that time of day — instead of at midday — matter when trying to lose weight?

This study

The study included 80 overweight or obese women, middle-aged or younger (average age, 33) who had enrolled in a weight-loss program that included diet and exercise components and regular monitoring and consultations. They were randomly assigned to eat their main meal either at lunch or at dinner. Specifically, 50 percent of their daily energy (nutrients and calories) was to come from lunch and 20 percent from dinner, or vice versa. Food intake was essentially the same between the two groups throughout the study, and, after 12 weeks, each group had lost weight. However, women who had made lunch their main meal of the day lost more than those for whom dinner in the evening was the main meal: 13 pounds lost versus nine.

Who may be affected

Women who are overweight. Today, an estimated 70 percent of American adults — more women than men — are overweight or obese, a prevalence that increases with age. Extra weight can have serious health consequences, with effects on cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels and adding to the likelihood of developing heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and some types of cancer.


Data on food consumption came from records kept by the participants. The study included only adult women; whether the results would apply to men or youths was not tested.

Find this study

October issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (

Learn more

Information on losing weight is available at (search for “weight loss”). For more on selecting a safe and successful weight-loss program, go to (click on “health information,” then “weight management”).

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals.