When it comes to avoiding weight gain, dinner seems to be the most important meal of the day. Skipping that evening meal may lead to packing on pounds and increase the likelihood of being overweight or obese, according to a new study. Plenty of previous studies have found not eating breakfast is linked with weight gain, but less research has been done on the effect of passing on other meals of the day, so that’s what researchers at Osaka University in Japan set out to do.
They analyzed breakfast, lunch and dinner habits of more than 25-thousand students for an average of three years. Researchers tracked the time meals were eaten, how meal habits changed over time, as well as lifestyle factors including smoking and sleep. And while the number of students who say they sometimes skip dinner was small, those who did so regularly were more likely to be older, more overweight, a smoker or drinker, to sleep for shorter periods of time and eat dinner later when they did eat it.
Skipping dinner was also found to be “significantly associated” with weight gain of 10% or more and having a BMI (body mass index) over 25, which is considered overweight or obese. So while skipping dinner isn’t as common as not eating breakfast, study authors say it’s more strongly associated with weight gain and being overweight or obese than skipping breakfast. They suggest this could be because not eating dinner makes people hungrier, so they end up eating more over the course of the day.