Does late eating affect our metabolism? This question was asked by researchers from John Hopkins University, whose study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Peak glucose and high-fat levels
Based on the previously established premise that the consumption of fatty and sweet foods at the end of the day is associated with an increased risk of becoming overweight and obese, the researchers recruited 20 healthy volunteers (10 women and 10 men). All ate the same meal at 6 p.m. on one day and 10 p.m. on another and both went to bed at 11 p.m. As a result, blood sugar levels at bedtime were higher if eaten only an hour earlier, and fat burning was lower than if it had taken place 5 hours before bedtime.
“On average, the peak glucose level after dinner was 18% higher and the amount of fat burned was less than 10%,” said Chenjuan Gu, the lead author of the study. In the long run, this bad habit of eating late at night can promote the development of diabetes and obesity, especially because the sugars and fats ingested do not have time to be eliminated by the body.
Further studies with a larger sample of people are needed to define with certainty the consequences of late eating on metabolism, but these initial data confirm the importance of eating at a reasonable time before sleeping for the body’s digestion.
Other risks associated with a late-night eating
By 2018, researchers had established a link between having a late dinner and the prevalence of breast and prostate cancer. “Compared to subjects who slept immediately after dinner, those who slept two hours or more after dinner had a 20% reduced risk of breast and prostate cancer [-16% breast cancer risk and -26% prostate cancer risk],” they said.
Another study, published in 2019, showed that women who ate high-calorie meals late at night had a higher risk of higher blood pressure, a higher BMI and poor blood glucose control than women who went out early for dinner. “Until now, lifestyle approaches to heart disease prevention have focused on what and how much we eat,” said Nour Makarem, a researcher at Columbia University in New York City. These preliminary results suggest that a conscious diet that takes into account the timing and calorie content of dinners can provide a simple and modifiable behavior that can help reduce the risk of heart disease.