Cross-sectional observations have shown that the timing of eating may be important for health-related outcomes. Here we examined the stability of eating timing, using both clock hour and relative circadian time, across one semester (n = 14) at daily and monthly time-scales. At three time points ~ 1 month apart, circadian phase was determined during an overnight in-laboratory visit and eating was photographically recorded for one week to assess timing and composition. Day-to-day stability was measured using the Composite Phase Deviation (deviation from a perfectly regular pattern) and intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC) were used to determine individual stability across months (weekly average compared across months). Day-to-day clock timing of caloric events had poor stability within individuals (~ 3-h variation; ICC = 0.12–0.34). The timing of eating was stable across months (~ 1-h variation, ICCs ranging from 0.54–0.63), but less stable across months when measured relative to circadian timing (ICC = 0.33–0.41). Our findings suggest that though day-to-day variability in the timing of eating has poor stability, the timing of eating measured for a week is stable across months within individuals. This indicates two relevant timescales: a monthly timescale with more stability in eating timing than a daily timescale. Thus, a single day’s food documentation may not represent habitual (longer timescale) patterns.
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Andrew W. McHill, Cassie J. Hilditch, Dorothee Fischer, Charles A. Czeisler, Marta Garaulet, Frank A.J.L. Scheer, and Elizabeth B. Klerman. "Stability of the timing of food intake at daily and monthly timescales in young adults" Scientific Reports (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-77851-z