Later energy intake relative to mathematically modeled circadian time is associated with higher percentage body fat

Andrew W. McHill, Lindsey S. Brown, Andrew J.K. Phillips, Laura K. Barger, Marta Garaulet, Frank A.J.L. Scheer, Elizabeth B. Klerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Later circadian timing of energy intake is associated with higher body fat percentage. Current methods for obtaining accurate circadian timing are labor- and cost-intensive, limiting practical application of this relationship. This study investigated whether the timing of energy intake relative to a mathematically modeled circadian time, derived from easily collected ambulatory data, would differ between participants with a lean or overweight/obesity body fat percentage. Methods: Participants (N = 87) wore a light- and activity-measuring device (actigraph) throughout a cross-sectional 30-day study. For 7 consecutive days within these 30 days, participants used a time-stamped-picture phone application to record energy intake. Body fat percentage was recorded. Circadian time was defined using melatonin onset from in-laboratory collected repeat saliva sampling or using light and activity or activity data alone entered into a mathematical model. Results: Participants with overweight/obesity body fat percentages ate 50% of their daily calories significantly closer to model-predicted melatonin onset from light and activity data (0.61 hours closer) or activity data alone (0.86 hours closer; both log-rank p < 0.05). Conclusions: Use of mathematically modeled circadian timing resulted in similar relationships between the timing of energy intake and body composition as that observed using in-laboratory collected metrics. These findings may facilitate use of circadian timing in time-based interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)50-56
Number of pages7
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - Feb 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Later energy intake relative to mathematically modeled circadian time is associated with higher percentage body fat'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this