And initial trials have given food scientists a fresh insight into present daily dining habits, showing how most people spread their eating over 16 hours of the day.
The researchers collected daily eating and drinking figures from more than 150 people via a mobile research app over three weeks.
The findings, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, show that the majority of people eat for 15 hours or longer, with less than a quarter of the day’s calories being consumed before noon and more than a third consumed after 6pm.
The purpose of the app is to pilot a way to objectively study the effects of timing food intake.
Primed with evidence of how long people eat each day, senior author Doctor Satchidananda Panda, an associate professor in the Salk Institute’s Regulatory Biology Laboratory in the US, along with first author Shubhroz Gill were able to test whether reducing the daily duration impacts health.
In addition to cutting out some bad habits, the researchers believed that a timed feeding schedule could prevent “metabolic jet lag” – when differences in day-to-day or weekday to weekend meal times – cause metabolic organs to become out of sync with the body’s overall circadian rhythms.
Previous experiments with mice from Dr Panda’s lab have shown that changing eating duration could protect against obesity and disease.
Dr Panda said: “Our research on the benefits of time-restricted feeding in mice elicited mixed feedback.
“While several people thought humans do eat randomly and the approach might have translational significance, others said that we largely eat three meals everyday within a ten to 12 hour interval.”