After a long day, it can be tempting to opt for a midnight snack.
But according to new research, having a meal late at night may be bad for your health.
For the study, investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital studied 16 patients considered in the overweight or obese range and assigned them with either a strict early meal programme or the exact same meals but scheduled about four hours later in the day.
After a variety of tests, the researchers found that the time people eat can actually increase hunger.
“In this study, we asked, ‘Does the time that we eat matter when everything else is kept consistent?'” said first author Dr Nina Vujovic. “And we found that eating four hours later makes a significant difference for our hunger levels, the way we burn calories after we eat, and the way we store fat.”
Results revealed that eating later had profound effects on hunger and appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin, which influence the drive to eat.
Accordingly, the study authors explained that the findings are not only consistent with a large body of research suggesting that eating later may increase one’s likelihood of developing obesity, but they shed new light on how this might occur.
“This study shows the impact of late versus early eating. Here, we isolated these effects by controlling for confounding variables like caloric intake, physical activity, sleep, and light exposure, but in real life, many of these factors may themselves be influenced by meal timing,” explained senior author Dr Frank A.J.L. Scheer. “In larger scale studies, where tight control of all these factors is not feasible, we must at least consider how other behavioural and environmental variables alter these biological pathways underlying obesity risk. “