Eating a large dinner regularly and late in the evening makes you fat and sick with type 2 diabetes. This is what emerges from a very recent scientific research that has also revealed the mechanism behind this link. The study was published a few weeks ago in the prestigious journal Science by an American team from Northwestern University (Hepler et al, Science, Oct 2022).
The importance of our internal clock
Previous studies had already had the opportunity to draw attention to the rhythms of our internal clock, capable of regulating the production of hormones, metabolism and the phases of sleep and wakefulness. Alterations of this internal rhythm, called the circadian rhythm, can lead to insomnia but also to changes in the accumulation of fat. However, until now the mechanism behind this association was unclear. To shed light on the importance of our internal clock and to understand how an alteration of these rhythms can make you fat and sick, scientists from Northwestern University have developed the study we are talking about today.
It all depends on the hours of light and dark, the study
The study took place in the laboratory, on a population of mice. Mice are nocturnal animals and therefore active at night and at rest during the day. Scientists gave one part of the mice a high-fat diet only at night, while the other part only during the day. After a week, the mice that had been fed during the day had accumulated more fat and weight than the mice that, while being fed the same way, had eaten during the night. The researchers were able to conclude that the time at which we eat also determines the way in which the fats introduced in the diet are used. In particular, eating during the hours of activity, in the case of us humans during the day, during the night for the nocturnal mice, allows to use more energy and accumulate less fat. Scientists have also been able to verify that the explanation of what has been observed is to be found in the internal clock that establishes the metabolism of adipocytes, which are the cells of the adipose tissue responsible for storing fat, and the synthesis of creatine, a molecule that is involved in energy production. In the hours when we should be active, and therefore in our case during the day, the metabolism is accelerated and more fats are used for energy production, as established by our internal rhythms. Instead, in the hours that should be dedicated to rest, that is, in the hours when there is no light, fats tend to be stored. That's why eating large meals in the evening makes you fat. Being overweight then opens the door to more serious conditions such as chronic inflammation, cardiovascular problems and diabetes.
Here is an explanation as to why, if we eat a lot in the evening or at night we tend to get fat and sick. For our body those hours are dedicated to rest and mechanisms come naturally into play in order to make us burn less fat and obtain less energy. After all, popular wisdom already said it, advising to have a king's breakfast, a prince's lunch and a poor man's dinner. Today we also have scientific proof.