First, it’s important to remember that a gain in body weight only occurs when there is a change in calories consumed or calories burned. A calorie is a calorie, but there are conditions where food calories could influence your tendency to gain weight or lose it. For example, it is known that different foods have a different ability to make you feel full, which can influence your food choices later in the day and ultimately influence your total calorie intake.
If you feel full, you are less likely to snack. High protein meals for breakfast have been shown to reduce food cravings and help reduce snacking later in the day. A high protein meal kick-starts a release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates feelings of reward. The reward response is an important part of eating because it helps to regulate how much food you eat.
Also, when you eat may influence your drive to be physically active. If you have a large dinner, you might feel weighed down and less motivated to be active, so your chances of burning calories are reduced.
Eating late in the evening is linked to weight gain and obesity, whereas research shows that eating breakfast is linked to a lower risk of obesity. This supports the theory that it’s better to eat your main meal earlier rather than later. But is not true for all types of breakfast. In one study, people who ate meat or eggs for breakfast (or both) were significantly more likely to have a higher body mass index than people who ate cereal or bread for breakfast. Not all breakfasts are created equal.
Different cultures have different approaches to patterns of eating, for example in Spain, a larger midday meal is common, followed by an afternoon siesta and evening tapas (small plates of food). Research by the University of Murcia in Spain shows that overweight women who consumed more at lunchtime lost more weight than those who consumed a larger evening meal, highlighting that changes in meal timing can influence obesity and success of weight loss therapy.
Is breakfast a coffee on the go or a sit down full English – or do you skip it altogether? If you don’t usually eat breakfast, just adding it in won’t necessarily lead to spontaneous weight loss. Research in obese adults, shows that some people even gain weight when they do this. We need more research to understand whether breakfasts of specific composition (high fibre or high protein) could improve weight management, and to understand the mechanisms that would best allow this.
For the moment, the idea that eating breakfast is associated with a lower risk of obesity and that eating late is linked with obesity is not conclusive as the evidence comes from observational studies, which can’t show cause and effect. So, for breakfast eaters, it is possible that lifestyle factors that may not have been accounted for in these studies, such as physical activity or smoking status, could explain the results. We need more evidence before we can support or reject the idea that timing of eating is important for body weight and health.
Lark or owl?
So how can we assess these claims about when to eat? Actually, the truth is that one diet message does not fit all people. Some people will be able to control body weight better with a big breakfast and some with a large evening meal. You can assess your own biological bias.
Are you an owl or a lark? Knowing your own tendency to feel alert and energetic – your “chronotype” – can help you plan your eating, work and sleep patterns. There are online quizzes to find out if you an early bird or night owl.
As we understand this interaction of time of day and metabolism better, we will be able to give more accurate dietary advice to the individual that is not only related to nutritional composition, but also time of eating. But first, we need more chrono-nutrition research (time of eating linked to circadian rythm) to fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge.
More on evidence-based articles about diets:
Within developing economies, including Africa, there are growing opportunities to implement new technologies and localised energy generation systems, that could lead to innovation that will change how the world generates, stores and distributes power. This is according to Kieran Whyte, Head of the Energy, Mining and Infrastructure Practice at Baker McKenzie in Johannesburg.
“In Africa, new systems and networks can be designed around future environmental stressors and energy demands without having to take into account the limitations of old infrastructure. Africa therefore has an opportunity to lead the way in smart power innovation. Considering that Africa currently has insufficient generation and transmission capacity, encouraging smart power solutions is crucial, ” Whyte says.
Marc Fèvre , Partner at Baker McKenzie in London, notes that the combination of the rise of cost-effective renewable energy, the decentralisation of energy production, and improvements in energy storage, smart metering and other digital technology all have the potential to revolutionise the way power is generated and consumed, and Africa has a role to play in innovating these smart power solutions.
“Energy industry incumbents around the world, including in Africa, are reshaping their businesses to be able to seize the opportunities and to meet the challenges that come with increasing use of smart power. Opportunities in smart power include energy storage; smart cities and buildings; data monetisation and new ways of buying and selling power. All of these are blurring the lines between utilities and technology companies. With advanced use of mobile technology in Africa and the lack of existing electricity transmission networks, these developments provide an opportunity for communities in Africa to get access to power by leapfrogging the traditional model of generation and transmission of power,” he says.
According to Baker McKenzie’s report, The Smart Power Revolution - Opportunities and Challenges (report), which surveyed, more than 200 senior executives from corporates, developers, investors, banks and service providers worldwide, investment in smart power is rising. The results show that more than 40% of the energy companies in the survey said smart power is now a core part of their business, and 37% have established at least one business line related to smart power.
“Of all the types of smart power initiatives, energy storage tops the list. In the survey, 62% of businesses said they are planning to invest in energy storage technology in the next 18 months, followed by renewable energy projects with a smart power component (58%). Financial investors are also showing great interest in energy storage, with 93% of our respondents stating they consider these projects to be viable financing opportunities,” says Fèvre.
According to the report, energy data monetisation is hindered in part by privacy and data usage restrictions. Although many energy companies are using data analytics to improve the efficiency of their operations, only 6% of our respondents said they have sold the information they collect about household energy consumption to third parties. Some 19% of respondents cite laws that prevent personal data from being shared without consumer consent as the greatest obstacle to monetization.
The report also reveals a wide divergence in utilities’ attitudes around exploring and adopting smart power. This is often influenced by the regulatory environment. The utilities who embrace smart power will likely blur the line between utilities and technology companies, with 75% of respondents stating that utilities will increasingly become more like technology companies.
“However, unfit and outdated regulatory regimes are hurdles to smart power advancement. In this survey, 77% of respondents said legal and regulatory frameworks were inadequate to address the coming smart power changes, while 91% believe governments and regulators are not well-prepared for advancements in smart power technology,” says Fèvre.
“The energy sector investment in Africa has already begun to focus on implementing innovative solutions to changing demands and environments. Governments in Africa must now follow suit by adapting their legal and regulatory frameworks to encourage and protect this innovation in the power sector,” Whyte adds.