Growing up, dinner always happened whenever mom and dad came home from work around 6 or 7 pm. In college, dinner usually happens whenever we remember to eat; this could be at 5 pm, 9 pm, or even 3 pm — but what could be so wrong about that? 

Despite the social norms of eating after the sun sets, perhaps we've actually been doing this evening feast incorrectly our whole entire lives. 

Preliminary research presented at the 2016 Obesity Society Annual Meeting from Courtney Peterson, PhD, of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center suggests that eating dinner around mid-afternoon is quite beneficial for our health. 

Dr. Peterson and her team conducted an experiment using early time-restricted feeding (eTRF) where people would eat their last meal in the afternoon and then nothing else until breakfast the next day.

As a result of eTRF, participants reduced their hunger swings (say good-bye to those pesky, late-night cravings) and increased their fat burn (say hello to that beach body). Not only were they eating less, but they were also burning more.

This study suggests that when we eat can have a major impact on our metabolism but its long-term results on humans aren't quite definitively clear yet. 

In the past, TRF in the Panda Lab was practiced on rodents and its results were quite promising. The rats had reduced their body fat, their chances of weight gain, and their risk of contracting obesity and other metabolic diseases. 

Even though we aren't rats, just the fact that we can improve our body's metabolism and our health by simply eating an early dinner is already pretty impressive. What would be most exciting to see is if eating earlier can actually help with our weight maintenance.

So the next time you and your friends are deciding what to do for dinner, maybe try picking a place for 3 pm rather than 7:30 pm.