EATING dinner too late raises the risk of piling on the pounds, researchers are warning.
Dining just before bedtime also fuels the danger of type 2 diabetes by increasing blood sugar levels, according to a new study.
Researchers compared the effects among the same group of people of eating dinner at 6pm and 10pm.
More than 2.1 billion adults worldwide are estimated to be overweight or obese which make potentially fatal health complications such as diabetes and high blood pressure more likely.
Some previous studies have suggested that consuming calories later in the day is associated with obesity and metabolic syndrome.
Corresponding author of the new study Dr Jonathan Jun, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US, said: "This study sheds new light on how eating a late dinner worsens glucose tolerance and reduces the amount of fat burned.
Late eating could lead to consequences such as diabetes or obesity
"The effect of late eating varies greatly between people and depends on their usual bedtime.
"This shows that some people might be more vulnerable to late eating than others.
"If the metabolic effects we observed with a single meal keep occurring chronically, then late eating could lead to consequences such as diabetes or obesity."
The researchers studied 20 healthy volunteers – ten men and ten women – to see how they digested dinner eaten at 10pm compared to 6pm. The volunteers all went to bed at 11pm.
High blood sugar levels
The researchers found that blood sugar levels were higher, and the amount of ingested fat burned was lower following the later dinner, even when the same meal was provided at the two different times.
Study first author Dr Chenjuan Gu, also of Johns Hopkins University, said: "On average, the peak glucose level after late dinner was about 18 per cent higher, and the amount of fat burned overnight decreased by about ten per cent compared to eating an earlier dinner.
"The effects we have seen in healthy volunteers might be more pronounced in people with obesity or diabetes, who already have a compromised metabolism."
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, is not the first to show the effects of late eating, but the research team said it is one of the most detailed.
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a common condition that causes the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood to become too high.
It can cause symptoms like excessive thirst, needing to pee a lot and tiredness. It can also increase your risk of getting serious problems with your eyes, heart and nerves.
It's a lifelong condition that can affect your everyday life. You may need to change your diet, take medicines and have regular check-ups.
It's caused by problems with a chemical in the body (hormone) called insulin. It's often linked to being overweight or inactive, or having a family history of type 2 diabetes.
Many people have type 2 diabetes without realising. This is because symptoms do not necessarily make you feel unwell.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:
- Peeing more than usual, particularly at night
- Feeling thirsty all the time
- Feeling very tired
- Losing weight without trying to
- Itching around your penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush
- Cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
- Blurred vision
They said the volunteers wore activity trackers, had blood sampling every hour while staying in a lab, underwent sleep studies and body fat scans, and ate food that contained non-radioactive labels so that the rate of fat burning could be determined.
Dr Jun added: "We still need to do more experiments to see if these effects continue over time, and if they are caused more by behaviour – such as sleeping soon after a meal – or by the body's circadian rhythms."
A similar study earlier this year revealed that eating after 6pm increases your risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Scientists claimed this is because the digestive system is less efficient at night because of something called circadian rhythms.
Circadian rhythms are the 24-hour cycles that dictate everything from when we feel sleepy to when our immune cells are most active.
And these cycles enable our bodies to prepare for regular events – including the arrival of food.
Our digestive system is no exception – as we produce less saliva at night, our stomach produces fewer digestive juices, the intestinal contractions that move food through the gut slows down and we are less sensitive to the hormone insulin.
This means we process food more efficiently during the day.
Our bodies are set up like this as for most of human history eating has been done during the day and night-time was for sleep.
NHS tips to lose weight
The NHS has shared the below 12 top tips to help slimmers kickstart their weight loss journey.
- Do not skip breakfast – You could miss out on essential nutrients and you may end up snacking more throughout the day because you feel hungry.
- Eat regular meals – Eating at regular times during the day helps burn calories at a faster rate.
- Eat plenty of fruit and veg – Fruit and veg are low in calories and fat, and high in fibre – three essential ingredients for successful weight loss.
- Get more active – As well as providing lots of health benefits, exercise can help burn off the excess calories you cannot lose through diet alone.
- Drink plenty of water -People sometimes confuse thirst with hunger.
- Eat high fibre foods – Foods containing lots of fibre can help keep you feeling full, which is perfect for losing weight. F
- Read food labels – Knowing how to read food labels can help you choose healthier options.
- Use a smaller plate – This can help you eat smaller portions.
- Do not ban foods – Banning foods will only make you crave them more.
- Do not stock junk food – To avoid temptation, do not stock junk food – such as chocolate, biscuits, crisps and sweet fizzy drinks – at home.
- Cut down on alcohol – A standard glass of wine can contain as many calories as a piece of chocolate.
- Plan your meals – Try to plan your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the week, making sure you stick to your calorie allowance
Professor Satchin Panda, who researches circadian rhythms at the Salk Institute in California, said: "We have been hard-wired to go through this daily cycle."
A small study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, also found that eating all your calories before 3pm each day results in superior weight loss when compared to a diet consumed over a normal eating period.
It was found to improve insulin sensitivity, or better control of the hormone insulin that controls fat metabolism, lower blood pressure and slash cravings for sweet foods in the evening.
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