The participants ate and drank almost all day, researchers found. Fewer than 10 percent of participants went for more than 12 hours without eating.
Although it was free to download, it could only be used by individuals who came into the lab and sign an informed consent form of the experiment. Well, recent findings suggest Americans are eating all day long – 15 or more hours a day.
Lest you think “grazing” refers to the “several small meals” dietary pattern that many weigh loss programs recommend, Panda found that more “eating hours” meant more calories.
“This is an example of a new class of research studies that have become possible due to the massive adoption of smartphones”, Gill added.
Users were healthy males and females between the ages of 21 and 55 who were not actively managing their diet. Cultural practices were revealed as well – Americans were seen to consume coffee and milk in the morning, alcohol in the evening, and tea throughout the day.
Participants were told to limit their consumption of anything with more than five calories to a 10- to 12-hour spans each day, then to fast for the remaining 12 to 14 hours. Chocolate and candy were present at all times during the day after 10 AM.
While there had been food studies done in the past, they tended to focus on what people ate, rather than when.
Co-author of the study, Satchidananda Panda, said people are eating for 15 or more hours and most of the calories were eaten after 6 p.m.in the evening. “And when it comes to food, there has been a lot of researches done to monitor what people eat, and there are also suggestions of what they should not eat”. “The context of the picture spoke volumes – for example, when taken next to a keyboard, in bed, watching TV, on the sidewalk, in the vehicle, or while filling gas”.
A further role for the app, suggests Gill, could be in the implementation of personalized medicine strategies.
The photos revealed more than two-thirds took a nutritional supplement or vitamins, but the time they took them varied daily and the same was true for medication.
The researchers also tested whether the app could assist people who wished to adapt to time-restricted feeding, i.e., eat for fewer and consistent hours every day.
And generally, that final 12 percent of the day’s calories was extra: Computing participants’ average caloric needs for maintenance of body weight, the researchers reckoned that, typically, all calories consumed by participants after 6:36 p.m. were over and above those needed to keep their collective weight stable. By restricting these people to feeding periods of 10 to 11 hours – without adjusting their diet in any other way – each person lost an average of 3.5 percent of their weight over 16 weeks. One should not take away the message that changing the eating duration is the only method to improve health.
The app that was developed by the researcher duo, who work at the Regulatory Biology Department of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, functioned using a simple design. “This may also be risky for individuals with undiagnosed fasting hypoglycemia”. Gill and Panda designed the app to collect, analyse and interpret patterns of food intake in humans.
Panda also hopes to test the benefits of time-restricted feeding under different conditions of sleep, activity and disease.