No matter how much you might enjoy a midnight snack, eating late at night is unhealthy. This is something we have long thought about, and it has now been proven.
In a recent study, researchers from Harvard Medical School at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, discovered that eating late at night increases hunger, decreases calorie burning, and has the potential to alter the metabolism of adults who are overweight or obese, leading to an increase in body fat.
In the US, 42% of adults are thought to be obese, putting them at risk for developing chronic illnesses diabetes, cancer, and other conditions.
The World Health Organization reports that the issue is also getting worse in Europe, where 59% of adults and 8% of children under the age of five are overweight or obese.
The WHO found that obesity causes 1.2 million deaths worldwide each year, 200,000 cancer cases, in a report released in May of this year.
An estimated 650 million persons worldwide are obese.
How is eating late associated with a higher risk of obesity?
Even while many diets advise against eating after 6 or 7 o’clock in the evening, their effects have not yet been proven. In general, we were aware that a midnight snack was unwise, but we were unsure of the reason why.
We now have a far clearer understanding of how late snacking affects our appetite, our energy expenditure, and our fatty tissue due to the Boston scientists.
Scientists requested each of the 16 patients, who were regarded to be overweight or obese, to adhere to one of two protocols: one in which they could only eat on the specified time, and the other in which they could have the identical meals, but four hours later.
In the 24 hours after their late-night eating, patients displayed reduced levels of leptin, the hormone that controls our appetite by signaling when we are full. It turns out that those four hours of delay could make a significant difference. They also burnt calories more slowly, and it suggested that their body fat was more susceptible to increase.
The study’s findings were published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
These results were obtained in a method that is not for the faint of heart: in addition to providing the researchers with information about their level of appetite, the patients gave them small blood samples throughout the day, had their body temperatures and energy expenditure monitored, and some even had adipose tissue biopsies done.
A midnight snack can be extremely gratifying and indulgent, and some of us who work late shifts might not have time to eat earlier. However, we now understand the true price of those sly late-night forays to the kitchen.