The Proof is In: Eat at Night, Get Fat

. Saturday, September 5


Time says it, so it must be true, right? Or maybe it’s just another one of those “duh” moments that just had to hit the top news stories of the day; i.e., stating the obvious. Then again, maybe it’s time for a reminder…

Scientists decided to study the effects that the time of day mice were fed on weight gain by feeding one group during the night, and the other during normal daytime hours. Both groups kept a day schedule with the same amount of activity. The group fed at night gained more than twice as much weight on a high fat diet than its control counterpart.

The nighttime feeding schedule, the scientists found, disrupts the circadian rhythm and sets off a chain reaction of effects. The body reacts to the introduction of calories differently, and in the end, has a large impact on its ability to maintain energy levels throughout the day. The hormones that govern hunger and full feelings, ghrelin and leptin, are knocked out of balance with the hunger messages sent to the brain increased and the full messages decreased. The body expects to eat several small meals during the day and tends to store the extra taken in with huge evening meals, resulting in weight gain, increase in blood sugar levels and cardiovascular changes.

Sleep patterns play a part in weight as well. In general, those who get a good 8 hours of sleep each night tend to be thinner and more energetic. Eating late in the day is associated with acid reflux and other sleep-disturbing gastrointestinal problems.

The take-home message: Eat small meals throughout the day, avoid the huge evening meals and snacks and listen to your body. Your stomach might be telling you it’s thirsty, not hungry, so grab a glass of water on the way to the refrigerator.