Research suggests that there is a link between delayed eating habits and increased obesity risk


Diet culture spews a lot of confusing ideas about how to lose weight, and often they’re completely contradictory. Others believe that calories in, calories out is all you need. Some people believe that intermittent fasting, lots of fruits and vegetables, or no carbs, is the best way to eat. Who can keep track?

But it turns out one old diet adage may actually have scientific merit: Don’t eat late at night.

Researchers found evidence in the past to support this assertion. Late eating can increase your risk of being obese.The mechanisms behind this phenomenon were not understood. New research has identified the biological reasons late-night snacking can lead to weight gain.

Understanding the importance of timing

An analysis Published in Cell Metabolism by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital looked at 16 individuals with body mass indexes in the overweight or obese range. The lab provided a three-meal daily diet for the duration of their two six-day stays.

The meals were served in the morning on the first visit. The exact same meals were transferred four hours earlier on the second visit. They started in the morning and ended in the late afternoon.

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Participants were required to adhere to a set sleep and wake pattern for the first two to three week before entering each in-laboratory visit. The participants also maintained identical diets and meal plans at home for the three days prior to entering the laboratory.

Participants recorded their hunger and thirst every day. They gave small blood samples throughout each day and also measured body temperature, energy expenditure, and body temperature. The researchers also did fat tissue biopsies.

They found that eating late significantly increased appetite during the day, decreased energy expenditure during the day, and caused the study subject’s bodies to more readily store fat. What is the reason?

Three Culprits are Identified

Researchers hypothesized that hormonal, metabolic, and molecular changes could all conspire to create a correlation between late night eating and higher risks of obesity. They found this:

  1. The late-eating stay saw the appetite-regulating hormone Leptin decrease over a 24-hour period, signaling fullness, compared to the early eating stay.
  2. Low daytime metabolism was associated with late eating.
  3. The gene responsible for increased fat storage was activated by late-eatening.  

Resetting Your Eating Schedule

It can be difficult to stop eating late at night if you’re a regular eater. Plus, between hectic work days, taking care of the family, and other life obligations, we all don’t get guaranteed meal breaks.

It takes dedication and time, just like any other habit. Start small if you skip breakfast. When possible, eat at the same time every day. Your body should adjust over time to your new eating routine.

When you’re trying to adhere to a new schedule or eat late at night, meal preparation can be a great option. Preparing and cutting ingredients ahead of time can help you save time when putting together a meal.

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