Researchers from a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism used a new app to track the Americans’ eating habits and found that they ate almost all day, which explains the obesity and metabolic disorder in several people in the United States.

Satchidananda Panda and Shubhroz Gill from the Salk Institute developed a mobile app to collect, analyze and interpret patterns of food intake in humans. Users only had to take a picture of their every meal and add where was it ate and at what time.

The study demonstrated that Americans ate most of their calorie intake at night, although keep on eating throughout the day, without really having separated meals. Credit: The Next Web

Although it was free to download, it could only be used by individuals who came into the lab and sign an informed consent form of the experiment. Users were 150 healthy men and women between the ages of 21 and 55 who did not manage their diet.

The study showed Americans ate most of their calorie intake at night, although keep on eating throughout the day, without really having separated meals.

Bad and cultural eating patterns

Results from the app showed that Americans consumed more than 35 percent of their calories after 6 p.m. and exceeded the amount of calories that feed their needs. More than 12 percent of participants showed to have a daily average food intake of 1,947 calories after 9 p.m.

Because the app allowed scientists to see the time and the place where people eat their meals, they collected data that showed cultural food practice. For instance, people drank more coffee and milk in the morning, alcohol at evening and tea throughout the day.

In addition, they consumed yogurt in the mornings, sandwiches and burgers during lunchtime and vegetables and ice cream in the evening. Photos of chocolate and candy were recorded after 10 a.m.

Does time matter?

A follow-up research showed that eating two large meals early in the day and skipping dinner may lead to more weight loss than eating 6 short meals throughout the day.

“If you eat late at night, the genes that are there to properly process those fats and sugars are not [activated] at their optimal level,” explained Panda in a conference.

Eight overweight individuals who used to eat for more than 14 hours every day were selected to eat for a 10-11 hour period without having been recommended to alter their diet. After 16 weeks, each lost an average of 3.5% of their excess body weight and reported feeling more energetic and having slept better.

“This is an example of a new class of research studies that have become possible due to the massive adoption of smartphones,” Gill added.

For the future

Scientists plan to keep the app available for those who want to cut out some bad eating habits, for personalizing medicine, and for everyone who wants to participate in further researches.

They are also interested in replicating the study in Europe, India, and Japan. “This has a huge impact on how we interpret the data on sleep and obesity/diabetes”, Panda said. “And when it comes to food, there has been a lot of researches done to monitor what people eat, and there are also suggestions of what they should not eat”.

Source: Cell Metabolism