Credit:Keletubbie(Flickr)

Credit:Keletubbie(Flickr)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The age-old maxim Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper may in fact be the best advice to follow to prevent metabolic syndrome, according to a new University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) study.

Metabolic syndrome is characterized by abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, insulin resistance and other cardiovascular disease-risk factors.

The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, examined the influence exerted by the type of foods and specific timing of intake on the development of metabolic syndrome characteristics in mice. The UAB research revealed that mice fed a meal higher in fat after waking had normal metabolic profiles. In contrast, mice that ate a more carbohydrate-rich diet in the morning and consumed a high-fat meal at the end of the day saw increased weight gain, adiposity, glucose intolerance and other markers of the metabolic syndrome.

Studies have looked at the type and quantity of food intake, but nobody has undertaken the question of whether the timing of what you eat and when you eat it influences body weight, even though we know sleep and altered circadian rhythms influence body weight, said the study's lead author Molly Bray, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology in the UAB School of Public Health.

Bray said the research team found that fat intake at the time of waking seems to turn on fat metabolism very efficiently and also turns on the animal's ability to respond to different types of food later in the day. When the animals were fed carbohydrates upon waking, carbohydrate metabolism was turned on and seemed to stay on even when the animal was eating different kinds of food later in the day.

Bray and senior author Martin Young (Ph.D., associate professor of medicine in the UAB Division of Cardiovascular Disease) said the implications of this research are important for human dietary recommendations. Humans rarely eat a uniform diet throughout the day and need the ability to respond to alterations in diet quality. Adjusting dietary composition of a given meal is an important component in energy balance, and they said their findings suggest that recommendations for weight reduction and/or maintenance should include information about the timing of dietary intake plus the quality and quantity of intake.