Those who eat dinner as early as 6 pm may be on to something. A recent study in the Endocrine Society's The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that eating dinner close to bedtime is often associated with high blood sugar levels and weight gain, even in healthy individuals.
Dr. Jonathan C. Jun, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, and his team studied 20 young adult volunteers (10 men and 10 women). All participants had no chronic health conditions. They were set to sleep at 11 pm, but one group was assigned a 6 pm dinnertime while the other group ate at 10 pm.
Throughout the study, participants had their blood sampled, wore activity trackers, ate food containing stable isotope tracers to measure fat metabolism, and underwent sleep studies and body fat scans. According to Dr. Jun, the study was more detailed compared to previous studies.
Researchers found that, despite eating the same meal, those who ate dinner late had higher blood sugar levels and a lower amount of fat burned. The late eater group showed peak blood sugar levels of almost 20% higher and fat burning was reduced by 10%, compared with those who ate earlier.
However, there were some variables. The researchers acknowledged that not everyone reacts to eating late meals the same way. The participants who were used to sleeping earlier had the worst results when given a late dinner. Meanwhile, those who were accustomed to eating late at night (going as late as 2 am to 3 am), seemed to be unaffected by the change.
According to the researchers, although they are confident that their findings offer conclusive proof that timing matters, they admit that an individual's metabolism can still override the overall results.
How does this affect you?
The researchers emphasized that these findings may be more pronounced in people who already have a compromised metabolism, such as those who have diabetes or obesity.
Furthermore, cultivating healthy eating habits plays a vital role in preventing chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, later in a person's life. Generally, it's best to avoid eating a large meal for dinner.
Experts recommend increasing calorie intake during breakfast or lunch. This gives the body enough time to digest the food and use it for energy. If you have no choice but to eat dinner late at night, the study's authors advise eating a small, high-protein snack late in the afternoon. This helps curb appetite a bit to ensure that you won't overeat at dinner.What time do you eat your dinner? If you're usually a late eater, have you tried having dinner at an earlier time?