Late night eating can have a significant impact on three key components of body weight regulation, including calorie intake regulation, calories burned, and molecular changes in fat tissue. Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers have found that this can increase the risk of obesity, which affects approximately 42 percent of adults in the United States and an estimated 650 million globally.
It is imperative to understand the risks associated with obesity, which include an increased vulnerability to developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and Covid-19. Although reducing dietary intake and exercising regularly has been the traditional approach towards tackling obesity, recent findings have suggested that these measures offer only short-term benefits.
In pursuit of understanding the connection between late eating and obesity, a study was conducted to examine the underlying mechanisms. Building on prior research, which linked late eating to heightened obesity risk, greater body fat, and reduced success in losing weight, the study sought to delve deeper into the root causes of these phenomena. The findings showed that even delaying meals by as little as four hours can markedly impact hunger levels, calorie burn, and fat storage, all of which may contribute to increased obesity risk.
During the course of this clinical investigation, 16 test subjects whose body mass index (BMI) fell in the overweight or obese range were each subjected to two distinct regimens. One regimen entailed an early meal schedule while the other regimen involved identical meals that were scheduled approximately four hours later in the day. During the course of the study, researchers collected blood samples and fat tissues from participants, measured their energy expenditure levels, and had them document their hunger and appetite.
The findings of this study indicate that consuming food late at night can negatively affect the hormones responsible for regulating our appetite and hunger. Late eaters were discovered to have a reduced ability to burn calories, indicating a propensity towards fat tissue production. This is due to genetic shifts that promote fat creation whilst inhibiting fat breakdown. Additionally, participants who ate later had decreased levels of the hormone leptin, responsible for signaling fullness, compared to those who ate earlier in the day. These results suggest that the timing of our meals could play a crucial role in controlling appetite and promoting weight management.
Despite adjusting for factors such as calorie consumption, exercise, sleep, and light exposure, the study’s findings showed that meal timing may still impact these variables. We must take into account how other environmental and behavioral factors impact the biological pathways related to obesity risk, particularly in larger studies where control over all variables may not be feasible. It is crucial to recognize how these factors interact and their influence on the outcomes of research in this field.
To view the original scientific study click below:
Late isocaloric eating increases hunger, decreases energy expenditure, and modifies metabolic pathways in adults with overweight and obesity