Research Original Research: Brief| Volume 121, ISSUE 4, P738-748, April 2021

Eating Timing: Associations with Dietary Intake and Metabolic Health

Published:November 10, 2020DOI:



      Emerging research indicates that eating timing may influence dietary intake and metabolic health. However, studies to date have not examined the association of multiple measures of eating timing with both dietary intake and metabolic health in adults with overweight and obesity.


      To examine the association of multiple measures of eating timing with dietary intake (ie, dietary composition, diet quality, and eating frequency) and metabolic health (ie, body composition and cardiometabolic risk).


      This is a cross-sectional analysis of baseline data from a weight loss and maintenance intervention collected from May 2015 to January 2018.


      Participants were women with overweight or obesity who were dependents of active duty and retired military personnel (N = 229; mean ± standard error, BMI = 34.7 ± 0.4 kg/m2, age = 40.9 ± 0.7 years). The study was conducted at military installations in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Colorado, and Kentucky.

      Main outcome measures

      Eating timing variables examined included daily eating interval (time between first and last eating occasion), time-restricted eating (≤11 hours daily eating interval), early energy eaters (eating ≥60% of energy during the first half of time awake), and bedtime eaters (eating within 2 hours of bedtime).

      Statistical analysis

      The main analysis was limited to those reporting plausible energy intake (64% of total sample [n = 146]). Linear, quantile, or logistic regression models were used to determine the association of eating timing with measures of dietary intake and metabolic health.


      In individuals reporting plausible energy intake, each additional 1 hour in daily eating interval was associated with 53 kcal higher energy intake, higher glycemic load, eating frequency, and waist circumference (P < 0.05 for all). Significant associations were observed for: time-restricted eating and a lower energy intake, glycemic load, and eating frequency; early energy eating and higher carbohydrate intake; bedtime eating and a higher energy intake, glycemic load, and eating frequency.


      These findings lend support for the mechanistic targeting of eating timing in behavioral interventions aimed at improving dietary intake and body composition.


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      A. Taetzch is a clinical assistant professor, Department of Agriculture, Nutrition, and Food Systems, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH; at the time of the study, she was a senior research dietitian, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, MA.


      S. B. Roberts is lab director and a senior scientist, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, MA.


      A. Bukhari is a research dietitian, US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Military Nutrition Division, Natick MA.


      A. H. Lichtenstein is Gershoff Professor of Nutrition Science and Policy and the director, Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, MA.


      C. H. Gilhooly is manager, Metabolic Research Unit and Dietary Assessment Unit, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, MA.


      E. Martin is graduate fellowship manager, School of Health Sciences, Merrimack College, North Andover, MA; at the time of the study, he was a senior research coordinator, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, MA.


      A. Krauss is a senior research dietitian, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, MA.


      A. Hatch-McChesy is a research dietitian, US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Military Nutrition Division, Natick, MA.


      S. K. Das is a scientist I, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, MA.