Research is currently inconclusive of timing of eating and the development of heart disease.

The bottom line is a calorie is a calorie and it does not matter when you take it. However, most people take most of their calories at night, in the US, dinner accounts for 34% of total calorie intake. Also working late and stress may lead us to indulge in high fat and high calorie snacks at night which may then add to the calorie intake. Most of the studies done are in animals, shift workers or people with late night eating syndrome, which is not representative of most normal people.

Research indicates that not following the natural rhythm of our bodies with regards to meal times may upset the metabolism of our body. Changes in circadian rhythm like staying in a dimly lit place led non-obese adults to feel hungrier at 8pm than 8am and a preference for sweet and salty food.

Hormones that support stress functions in our body like cortisol and adrenaline reach their nadir at 3pm and if we continue to strive to keep those levels up by drinking coffee in order to work late, then it may lead us to consume more sugar and fat.

Lastly, there is some research that the timing of eating may affect the levels of hormones which regulate appetite, ghrelin (increases appetite) and leptin (decreases appetite). Eating three main meals between 8am to 7pm led to ghrelin peaking earlier and leptin peaking later which reduced the amount of calories taken compared to eating between 12pm and 11pm.

Dr Kenneth Ng

11 March 2018

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