Timing Meals Later At Night Can Cause Weight Gain And Impair Fat Metabolism

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Timing Meals Later At Night Can Cause Weight Gain And Impair Fat Metabolism
Photo – Paweł Kadysz – stock.tookapic.com

For the first time, there is some experimental evidence to prove that avoiding a late night meal can help you lose weight and avoid major health issues. Thanks to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, a study revealed the link between prolonged delayed eating and weight gain and increased insulin and cholesterol levels. [1]

According to the study, timing meals later at night can negatively affect fat metabolism and trigger hormonal markers implicated in heart disease, diabetes, and other heart problems. The study highlights the metabolic consequences of consistent delayed eating compared to daytime eating. The researchers presented their findings at SLEEP 2017, the annual meeting of Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC that was held in Boston from June 3 to 7. [2]

Dr. Namni Goel, lead author, and colleagues used nine healthy adults to carry out the study. The participants underwent two conditions. Daytime eating required them to consume three meals and two snacks between 8am and 7pm for eight weeks. Delayed eating subjected them to three meals and two snacks from noon to 11pm for two months. To ensure that there was no carry-over effect, the study’s subjects had a two-week washout period between conditions. Their sleep period was held constant between 11pm and 9am. Influencing factors such as sleep-wake cycle, physical activity, and diet were not considered in the study.

Findings revealed that delayed eating is correlated with weight gain and increases in respiratory quotient. [3] The researchers also found increases in insulin and cholesterol levels. Participants who followed daytime eating condition recorded higher hormone ghrelin which stimulates appetite. [4] The study suggests that overeating in the evening and at night can be overcome by eating earlier.

Previous shorter studies have also pointed out the effects of eating patterns on weight. A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Obesity confirmed the influence of eating late on weight gain. The study stressed the importance of the timing of food as part of a weight-loss therapy that also considers caloric intake and macronutrient distribution. [5] Another study supports the relationship between weight gain and later relative timing of meals. This study focused on the link between total caloric intake and eating closer to sleep. [6]

According to Goel, their research gave a more comprehensive picture of the benefits of eating earlier in the day. He added that their early findings provided concrete evidence on the negative effects of meal timing on weight and metabolism. He also noted that their study offered a better understanding of how the body processes foods at different times of the day. His team is planning to conduct more research on a much larger scale, with a larger variety of participants.

Goel advises people to stick to an earlier dining schedule to prevent unnecessary weight gain. He believes that this behavioral intervention could be beneficial and is easy to implement.


[1] University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. June 2, 20017. Timing meals later at night can cause weight gain and impair fat metabolism. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170602143816.htm

[2] American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. Why Attend SLEEP?

[3] Ellis AC et al. December 2010. Obesity. Respiratory Quotient Predicts Fat Mass Gain in Premenopausal Women. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3075532/

[4] Klok MD et al. January 2007. Obesity Reviews. The role of leptin and ghrelin in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans: a review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17212793

[5] Garaulet M et al. Timing of food intake predicts weight loss effectiveness. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3756673/

[6] Reid KJ et al. Nutrition Research. November 2014. Meal timing influences daily caloric intake in healthy adults. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4794259/

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