Late-night eating has long been linked to a higher risk for obesity, which can pose all kinds of risks to your heart.
People who are overweight or obese tend to have higher blood pressure, worse circulation, and a higher risk for heart complications than people at a “normal” weight.
Researchers may have learned why meal timing could impact fat gain.
A recent study found that when meals are delayed by four hours – say eating at 10:30 PM rather than 6:30 – and keeping all other lifestyle factors the same, people burn fewer calories, have stronger cravings, and experience changes in fat tissue that promote weight gain, according to the study’s author.
The solution may be relatively simple: eat earlier in the day.
The study was rather small, featuring only 16 overweight or obese people. They each stuck to a strict early or late meal schedule for one day in a lab. In the weeks before, they maintained a regular sleep schedule and stuck to identical diets and meal times at home.
Each participant reported on their hunger and appetite, and provided blood samples, fat tissue, and other data.
Besides feeling hungrier, burning fewer calories, and showing changes in fat tissue, late eating also impacted the hunger-regulating hormones ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells you when to eat, while leptin tells you when you’ve had enough.
The study found that leptin dropped by 16 percent when people delayed their meals.
Keeping your eating schedule in line with your body’s natural circadian rhythm makes sense. Eating more early in the day and less as it progresses may be the best strategy to minimize weight gain and reduce the risk for high blood pressure and other heart disease risk factors.
Try eating a big breakfast, slightly smaller lunch, and small dinner with healthy snacks throughout the day. Remember, what you eat and how much is likely more important than when. So pay attention to portion sizes and what you’re eating.