When you eat might be as important as what you eat

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A new study suggests that timing when eating could matter when trying to lose weight.

Researchers from Harvard University said this is the first large-scale study that finds when you eat matters.  People who eat their big meal of the day early lose more than those who eat late.

The study looked at Europeans whose big meal of the day is lunch.  Those who dined before 3 p.m. not only dropped significantly more weight, they were less likely to develop diabetes.  The timing of other meals and the amount eaten did not matter.

"When it comes to weight control, it's a calorie game," said obesity expert, Dr. Gary Foster.

Foster said do not swap your bathroom scale for a watch just yet.  He said if you eat too much and move too little, you will gain no matter what.  A calorie equals the same at 6 p.m. as it does at midnight.

"If you change the time of day in which you eat your calories, as long as your calories are constant, it would make no difference," said Foster.

Foster said that is likely why the late eaters in the study, who skipped breakfast, packed on the pounds.

"It's not that there is something magical about breakfast, it's just that it sets you up to be more hungry when you do get to that lunch meal. It's not about a timing effect, it's that if you food deprive yourself for 5, 6, 7 hours, lets say, eat lunch at 3 instead of 1. You're going to be a lot hungrier at 3 o'clock, so much more likely to overeat," said Foster.

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