It is bad news for those who wake up ravenous – but the best time to have breakfast is 11am. Waiting a few hours for breakfast is better for those who are trying to lose weight, according to Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London.
That is because most people now have dinner much later than previous generations, and stop eating at around 9pm.
An 11am breakfast is the only way to achieve 14 hours of fasting, which evidence suggests is healthiest for the metabolism and weight loss.
Following the strategy for a few months could help people lose between 2kg and 5kg (4lb and 11lb).
An 11am breakfast is the only way to achieve 14 hours of fasting, according to one professor
Professor Spector told Cheltenham Science Festival: ‘I think we have to rethink all the things we have been told are unhealthy, because there’s just so much new science coming out.’
After the event, he said: ‘There are still people, particularly in the north of England, who eat earlier, but generally we have moved towards continental eating habits, having dinner much later like people in Spain and Italy.
‘Even those who don’t do that may end up snacking up until 9pm, making it difficult to achieve a 14-hour fasting period. There is a simple change people can make, by shifting their breakfast from 8am to 11am, which actually is more effective than more fashionable fasting diets like 5:2.’
Professor Spector has studied the Hadza tribe of modern hunter-gatherers who live in Tanzania and do not suffer from obesity or type 2 diabetes. The tribe has no word for breakfast and its people tend to start eating at 10.30am or 11am each day.
Among scientists, ‘time-restricted eating’ is increasingly seen as a way to become healthier and lose weight.
In the UK, many people have tried the 5:2 diet of eating normally for five days, then cutting back on calories for two days.
But Professor Spector said: ‘Fasting for 14 hours a day, using a later breakfast, but overall eating the same amount, is easier to achieve long-term. It works because the microbes in our gut have a circadian rhythm like us and need a rest period.’
The audience was also told that the old advice not to skip breakfast could be ignored. Eating breakfast makes some people fatter, according to Professor Spector’s book Spoon-Fed: Why Almost Everything We’ve Been Told About Food Is Wrong.
His company, ZOE, which gathered data on coronavirus, is offering to test people’s blood sugar, blood fats and gut bugs after they have eten a muffin, so that they can understand how certain foods affect them.