Food study may make the argument for that early Ashtanga dinner

Upfront, I want to put the emphasis on the “may.” We’ll circle back to that later.

A study out of Spain — published in the International Journal of Obesity — suggests that the old saying about “eat like a king at breakfast, a prince at lunch and a pauper at dinner” might have some truth to it.

Or, to put the Ashtanga spin on it: No dinner after 5 or 6 p.m.

I heard about it Wednesday morning on NPR. Here’s some of that report:

The Spanish study finds that dieters who ate their main meal before 3 p.m. lost significantly more weight than those who ate later in the day. This held true even though the early eaters were eating roughly the same number of calories during the five-month weight-loss study as their night-owl counterparts. 

The study included 420 overweight and obese volunteers who lived in the Mediterranean seaside town of Murcia, Spain. Their average age was 42. Half were men, half women. Their midday meal constituted about 40 percent of their diet of roughly 1,400 calories a day, on average. Right — that’s not a lot of calories. The average nondieting American eats about  2,700 calories a day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

On average, the early eaters in the Spanish study lost 22 pounds, compared with the late eaters who lost 17 pounds.

Those participating in the study had similar levels of physical activity, so any difference there was ruled out.

So what gives? From NPR: “[B]ecause eating seems to send a signal to our body clocks, it’s possible that when people delay eating a big meal until late in the day, things get out of whack: The master clock in the brain gets out of sync with the mini clocks in the cells of the body that regulate metabolism.”

Not everyone is convinced by the study, NPR notes. Those skeptics don’t see a cause and effect link and maintain that it is more about what (and how much) one eats that effects weight.

Still, this sounds right up the Ashtanga alley, right? Aren’t we always on the look out for rationales to our sometimes extreme lifestyles? So, back to my initial “may.”

It strikes me that Ashtangis who have early dinners aren’t really eating earlier in most cases. It’s just that our daily routines are shifted earlier. Dinner at 5 p.m., if you are asleep by 9 a.m., isn’t much different from dinner at 7 p.m. if you fall asleep around 11 p.m.

Now, not stuffing yourself to overflowing at dinner — the pauper meal — may be worth some thought, if you haven’t already started limiting those dinners to little, teeny, tiny portions.

Posted by Steve