Changing the times of key meals can shed body weight and cut the risk of heart attack, says a study.

In tests, taking a later breakfast and earlier evening meal led to lower levels of body fat, cholesterol and blood sugar within a few weeks - all thanks to the longer overnight "fasting" time.

For the study in next Wednesday's Trust Me, I'm a Doctor on BBC2, a group of men and women carried on with their normal diets, but half ate 90 minutes later than usual in the morning and 90 minutes earlier in the evening.

Study chief Dr Jonathan Johnston, from the University of Surrey, said the results showed that a shorter feeding period and a longer time spent fasting helped shift weight and boost health.

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Another test indicated that if a traditional fry-up is eaten in the morning, blood sugar levels go back to normal within two hours. But if the same meal is eaten late at night they stay high.

Dr Johnston said: "Your body isn't expecting you to be eating at that time of the day. If you eat most of your calories during the early part of the day, and fewer in the late afternoon and the evening, that will actually help your metabolism and potentially help you to lose weight and maintain weight loss."

And you do not have to squeeze mealtimes together every day -an occasional day of condensed eating can still make an impact.

The tests add to a growing scientific consensus around the value of fasting. Last year, researchers found that people who slashed their calories intake on just five days a month showed fewer signs of ageing, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

- Daily Mail