Eating Late Increases Hunger, Promotes Fat Growth

A study suggests that eating late increases hunger, makes the body burn calories slower, and promotes fat growth.

A study by investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, included 16 overweight or obese patients with an average age of 37.3 years. Of them, five were women.

Each participant followed two eating schedules: one with early meals and the other with the exact same meals about four hours later in the day. Participants also documented their hunger and appetite, provided frequent small blood samples throughout the day, and had their body temperature and energy expenditure measured.

In the study, researchers collected biopsies of adipose tissue, also known as body fat, to measure how eating time affected molecular pathways involved in how the body stores fat in some participants.

The study suggests that eating late significantly affects hormones regulating hunger and appetite, influencing our drive to eat. For example, levels of leptin, a hormone that signals satiety, were decreased across the 24 hours in the late eating condition compared to the early eating conditions.

Eating late also resulted in a slower burn of calories and changes in fat tissue, leading to fat growth.

"This study shows the impact of late versus early eating. Here, we isolated these effects by controlling for confounding variables like caloric intake, physical activity, sleep, and light exposure, but in real life, many of these factors may themselves be influenced by meal timing," senior author of the study, Frank A. J. L. Scheer, PhD, Director of the Medical Chronobiology Program in the Brigham's Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, said in a press release.

Benefits of time-restricted eating

Another recent study published in the journal Cell Metabolism looked at what effect changing the time of eating had on shift workers. The research included 137 firefighters in San Diego, California, aged 23 to 59, who work 24-hour shifts. Of them, 9% were women.

Researchers asked 70 participants to eat in the same 10-hour time frame — between 9 am and 7 pm, while others ate whenever they wanted for 12 weeks. Using a smartphone app, they recorded the time they ate and answered questions about their sleep and well-being. Moreover, they provided blood samples and had their weight measured.

The findings suggest that participants who ate in a 10-hour frame saw their health improve compared to the control group. One of the most significant improvements was reducing the size of very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) particles, known as bad cholesterol, which increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

in addition, participants in a time-restricted eating group lost weight and had their body mass index (BMI) reduced.

Between 2017 and 2020, four in ten (41.9%) US adults had obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Obesity-related conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer, are among the leading causes of preventable, premature death.

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