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Eating late makes you fat

Eating late makes you fat

October 27, 2022
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A healthy and balanced diet is essential to keep us healthy and to fight overweight and obesity. But the time at which we sit at the table to eat is also important. Skipping breakfast, making the first meal of the day only at noon and eating later in the evening, with less distance between mealtime and bedtime, have been shown to increase the risk of obesity. Today we are talking about this important result published a few days ago in the journal Cell Metabolism by a team from Harvard Medical School in Boston (Vujovic et al, Cell Metabolism, 2022).

The problem of obesity

Obesity is a growing condition. It is estimated that, in America, the problem of obesity affects 42% of the population. Obesity is to be countered not for an aesthetic problem but because it increases the risk of chronic diseases, diabetes and cancer. It is known that a sedentary lifestyle and a diet rich in sugar and fat open the doors to fat accumulation, overweight and obesity. But what's the role of the time you eat and of skipping meals such as breakfast on the risk of developing obesity? American researchers have tried to answer this question.

The time you eat affects the risk of developing obesity

The study is very small, in fact it involves a sample of 16 people, all overweight or obese women. All the participants in the study were asked, for two weeks before starting the experiment, to stick to a fixed daily schedule, waking up, going to sleep and eating at set times, the same for everyone. Subsequently, all the volunteers were asked to follow, for three days, a program, the program number 1, that included breakfast within an hour of waking up, lunch around noon and dinner very early, at around 6 pm in order to have 6 hours from this time and the time to go to sleep. After a few days of break, the volunteers were asked to follow another program, the program number 2, again lasting three days and with the same foods consumed during the first program, in which, however, breakfast was skipped and the first meal of the day was at noon. This was followed by a late afternoon snack and dinner, with only a two-hour gap between the meal and the time to go to sleep. In this second program all meals were therefore delayed by four hours compared to the first program. During the study, the volunteers were asked to fill out questionnaires regarding their feeling of hunger. Not only that, the study participants were subjected to visits and laboratory tests to assess the body's response to the program adopted. What emerged was that the second program, the one in which all meals were delayed by four hours, led the volunteers to feel more hungry. It has also been observed that eating late has led to a change in the levels of some hormones responsible for regulating appetite and the sense of satiety. For example, the leptin hormone that regulates satiety decreased throughout the day. Not only that, moving meal times forward also led to alterations in metabolism, with ingested calories being burned at a slower rate. Plus, eating later increased genes related to fat formation and storage compared to those associated with lipolysis, which is the reverse process of fat breakdown and utilization. Therefore, eating later increases the risk of accumulating fat and developing obesity in the long run.


The study is very small and therefore more research will follow on larger population samples, in order to give consistency to the conclusions the scientists have reached. However, even if not yet final, the study has the merit of having brought attention not only to what you eat but also when you eat. In the fight against obesity, which is also the fight against cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes, it is therefore important to ensure regularity, not to skip breakfast and not to eat too late in the evening in order to have more than two hours between the time of meal and the one in which you go to sleep.

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