A new study, conducted with the help of a smartphone app, has shown that Americans have abandoned the traditional three meals per day in favor of frequent snacking all throughout the day.
• The difference between the eating patterns revealed by the app and people’s perception of their eating habits.
• Description and results of the experiment conducted for the study.
• Description and results of the follow-up experiment.
US researchers say that most of their subjects spent at least 15 hours a day munching down on various foods. But the most alarming part of the discovery is that the biggest chunk of calories was consumed after 6 p.m., and that the majority of their subjects didn’t even notice how much they ate and drank.
Satchidananda Panda, study co-author and associate professor working at the Regulatory Biology Laboratory from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies (La Jolla, Calif), gave a statement informing that “Most participants thought they don’t eat or drink that regularly outside their breakfast-lunch-dinner routine”.
Most participants were also under the impression that they were confining their eating habits to a 10, 11, or 12 hour window. However, after the research team tracked their eating patterns, they noticed that the subjects’ eating habits stretched over the course of 15 hours or more.
To reach these conclusions, the research team used a newly designed smartphone app to track down the real-world eating habits of 150 Americans, both men and women, all in the 21 to 55 age range.
These subjects were asked to snap photos of everything they ate and drank, as well as of the nutritional supplements that they took. The app then calculated the caloric intake and recorded the exact time when the food was consumed, as well as the place where it was consumed. The project lasted three (3) weeks.
At the end of the 21 days, the research team noticed that the subjects’ food intake was not only erratic, but also continuous. A simple version of the findings would read that whenever Americans are awake, they tend to snack on one thing or another. Over half of the subjects only fasted while they were asleep.
Another realization was that most Americans only consume less than 25 percent (25%) of their daily caloric intake before noon, and over a third of their food after 6 p.m.
The same research team also conducted a follow-up investigation. They tracked eight (8) obese subjects, five (5) men and three (3) women, who were in the habit on consuming food for 15 hours or more. They told to restrict their eating to a period of 10 hours per day. This experiment lasted for 16 weeks and also used the app to calculate caloric intake.
The results showed that the participant ate 20 percent (20%) fewer calories on a daily basis. This in turn resulted in them losing around seven (7) pounds by the end of the four (4) months.
What’s more, these subjects also told researchers that they slept better during this time and that they experienced increased energy levels.
The findings were published earlier this week, on Thursday (September 24, 2015), in the journal Cell Metabolism.
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