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7 Healthcast

Want to lose weight? It's when you eat that counts

NEW YORK (WHDH) -- A new study may give dieters fresh ammunition in their fight to lose weight.

The research suggests it's not only what you eat, but when you eat it -that matters.

When it comes to meals many of us have fairly set schedules.

A study suggests that timing might matter -- at least for those who are trying to lose weight.

"This was the first long term large scale study to really show that the timing of meal intake is important in the success of weight loss therapy," said Dr. Frank Scheer of Brigham and Women's Hospital.

The study looked at overweight women who were on a Mediterranean diet high in vegetables, fish and a splash of olive oil.

The research was done in Spain, where lunch is typically the biggest meal of the day.

While all 420 volunteers consumed the same number of calories, those who had lunch before 3pm lost an average of 22 pounds in 20 weeks - 5 pounds more than those who ate lunch later.

The discussion about meal time and weight gain isn't new: Many scientists say the evidence shows that a calorie is a calorie no matter when you eat it. And even those who say timing is important admit that when you eat still isn't as important as how much you eat.

Still, studies in animals suggested that meals at different times can affect the biological clocks in our bodies

"Food acts as a signal of time to all the cells in our body including for the liver and fat tissue," said Dr. Scheer.

But this news may not be practical for many busy Americans. This latest study suggests that noon may be the best time to eat.