The main motive of the team was to understand whether eating late actually alters metabolism in a way that advances obesity. In the past, many dietitians have noted that eating late dinners can lead to numerous health hazards like heart diseases, and obesity, among others. Experts say that when someone delays eating, their bodies will delay preparing to sleep. This eventually can affect one’s memory or regulation for the next day.
This new study elaborates on that point and helps us understand exactly how regular late dinners can be directly associated with weight gain.
What does the study prove?
The researchers studied 20 healthy volunteers (10 men and 10 women) to determine how their bodies metabolized dinner eaten at 10 p.m. instead of 6 p.m. All the participants in the study went to sleep at 11 p.m.
The findings revealed that when eating a late dinner, blood sugar levels were higher, and the amount of fat burned was lower. This was also the case with people who had small meals.
“Other researchers have done similar work looking at circadian rhythms and diet, and other labs have shown that if you eat out of phase with your body’s normal circadian rhythm, you don’t metabolize glucose the same way,” Jun said.
Furthermore, the study also found that compared with those who ate dinner earlier, the blood sugar levels of late eaters were almost 20 percent higher and their fat burning was reduced by almost 10 percent.
“The effects we have seen in healthy volunteers might be more pronounced in people with obesity or diabetes, who already have a compromised metabolism,” said the study’s first author Chenjuan Gu, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher at Johns Hopkins University, in a statement.
Interestingly, the researchers also found that not everyone responds to eating late meals the same way. According to them, people who were used to sleeping earlier performed the worst when they were given a late meal. People who were used to staying up well beyond midnight, on the other hand, appeared to be unaffected by the change in their meal.
Thus, it was concluded that there are differences in people’s metabolism that either makes them more susceptible to late eating or it simply doesn’t affect them.
These findings may help people cultivate good eating habits
While this new study has been conducted with young adults and healthy weight volunteers, it still provides us with sufficient information to modify our eating habits. This proves that cultivating good eating habits is essential for disease prevention. These eating practices could even affect the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease later on in life.
According to the research team, dinner is the largest meal of the day for most adults with regard to calories. This is because owing to our hectic lifestyles these days, most of us rush through breakfast and lunch. This leads to us eating later and more than we should. In fact, rushing through your breakfast and lunch makes you crave a large meal late at night. As this study has emphasized, this can result in some difficulties with glucose or fat metabolism even in young people.
So what should we do?
One of the best ways to ensure that you don’t crave a large late-night meal is to have some small, high protein snacks in the late afternoon. Experts recommend having Greek yogurt sprinkled with nuts or mixed nuts and fruits minus the sugary additives in the late afternoon to help curb your appetite a bit. These healthy snack-size meals will make sure that you don’t have to eat later than expected.
You could even try a small salad with grilled chicken, half a sandwich and fruit, or a cup of vegetable soup and a glass of low-fat milk. Experts say that our aim should be to eat our largest meal at breakfast or lunch whenever possible.
The recent study is easily one of the most detailed ones of its kind. The participants were vigorously monitored – their blood samples were drawn every hour and their activities and sleep were monitored for two weeks before they came to the lab. The researchers also gave them a stable isotope tracer that helped them track the amount of fat that was burned or oxidized.
With the findings we have seen, the study at least proves that there are sufficient biological explanations for how food timing can affect the way our body handles those calories. Hence, we must take lessons from it and make changes in our eating routines for our health’s sake.
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