Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Does Late Night Eating Cause Weight Gain?
A link between late-night eating and weight gain has been debated for years. But though many dieters suspect a connection, it has not been borne out in studies.
Most of the research on the matter has been carried out in animals, and with mixed results. A 2005 study of primates at Oregon Health & Science University found that late-night meals did not lead to extra weight gain; whether consumed at 10 a.m. or 10 p.m., a calorie was just a calorie.
But a study on adult men and women, published in April in the journal Obesity, has added support to the claim that eating late does have a greater effect on the waistline.
In the study, researchers followed the sleeping and eating patterns of 52 people over seven days. About half the subjects were “late sleepers,” meaning the midpoint of their sleep cycles was 5:30 a.m. or later. The others were “normal sleepers,” whose midpoints were before 5:30 a.m.
At the end of the study, the scientists found that the late sleepers had higher body mass indexes, typically downed more calories at dinner, and ate fewer fruits and vegetables. The late sleepers also slept fewer hours, a habit that is generally linked to weight gain. But even after adjusting for these and other variables, the scientists discovered that eating after 8 p.m. was associated with a higher body mass index, suggesting that late-evening calories are, for some reason, more hazardous to your weight.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Recent studies suggest that eating at night may in fact lead to more weight gain, though it’s not clear why.
Source: Anahad O'Conner NY Times Health 5/16/11