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Eating late at night may cause weight gain and diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, a new research has found.
An experiment by the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine looked into the effects of the timing of meals on one’s health by comparing daytime eating and prolonged late night eating, or taking a meal after 7:00 p.m.
For the first eight weeks of the experiment, nine adults with normal weight were asked to eat two snacks and three meals between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. to keep track of daytime eating effects. After a two-week break, the researchers asked the participants to follow a delayed eating routine, which included the same number of snacks and meals from the previous eight-week period, from noon to 11:00 p.m.
Results revealed that constant delayed eating reduces the body’s ability to break down fat, which results in weight gain. Taking meals at a later time may also increase glucose and insulin levels, which can trigger type-2 diabetes. In addition, adopting this habit may lead to higher cholesterol levels, which may increase the risk of heart disease.
On the other hand, eating early in the day leads to the prompt release of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin /ˈɡrɛlɪn /. This means ghrelin gets used up faster and is replaced by leptin, the hormone that makes people feel full, later in the day. Thus, eating earlier can counter food cravings at night.
Previous findings show that the habit of daytime eating has other benefits aside from the prevention of weight gain and disease. These include increased energy levels and a reduced risk of heartburn—a burning sensation in the chest. As eating late can cause abdominal discomfort, which disrupts sleep, eating at an earlier time can also result in better sleep quality.