Breakfast should only be eaten after 11am, an expert has said.
Waiting a few hours before eating anything after waking up is better for staying healthy and shedding excess pounds, according to nutrition expert Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London.
That is because most people now eat dinner much later in the evening than previous generations, and only stop eating around 9pm the night before.
Therefore, an 11am breakfast is the best way for a person to achieve 14 hours of fasting overnight, which growing evidence suggests is best for the metabolism.
Prof Spector told an audience at Cheltenham Science Festival: “If you have a later breakfast, that will give you some benefits.
“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.”
Shift your first meal to late morning
Speaking after the talk, 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.”
Intermittent fasting is a popular dieting technique where a person can eat whatever they want within a specific time period every day.
However, there has been much debate over its effectiveness and at what time of the day a person should eat and when they should stop.
A recent study found stopping eating earlier in the day, at 3pm, is more effective than eating into the evening, with people losing three pounds more over a five-week period.
But modern lifestyles can make this impossible, with long work hours and hefty commutes pushing tea time later into the evening.
And Prof Spector says this needs to be taken into account, and the compromise is that breakfast must be delayed and converted into more of a brunch than a meal at the crack of dawn.
Good microbes need a rest
“Fasting for 14 hours a day, using a later breakfast, but overall eating the same amount, is easier to achieve long term,” he said.
“It works because the microbes in our gut have a circadian rhythm like us and need a rest period.
“Studies suggest a later breakfast to achieve 14 hours of fasting could help people to lose four to 11 pounds of weight over several months of doing it.
“Their microbes essentially become more efficient at burning food.”
The expert said people who feel ravenous in the mornings, or fear becoming light-headed without an earlier breakfast, are likely to quickly adapt to a new routine.
Prof Spector is co-creator of the ZOE app which was used to help track Covid in the community, but also inspects a person’s gut bacteria to find out what foods and diets would likely work best for them.
For example, he says in his book Spoon-Fed: Why Almost Everything We’ve Been Told About Food Is Wrong, some people gain weight if they eat breakfast, with the morning consumption particularly treacherous to their waistline.
On breakfast, Prof Spector added: “We know from our studies that everyone is different, and some people respond differently to high-carb and high-fat breakfasts, so it is important to understand that as well.”