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Excessive late night eating has long had a bad reputation, with studies showing it leads to weight gain. Now, in a new study, researchers from North western university have found that eating at the “wrong” time leads to more than twice as much weight gain, even when the overall calories consumed are the same as those eaten at appropriate times.

Their research is confined to animals, but the results are dramatic enough to point to the need for more human research, says Deanna Arble, a PhD student at Northwestern and the study’s lead author.

“We’ve found that mice who are allowed to eat during the light phase their ‘wrong’ time of day – gain substantially more weight than those allowed to east during the dark phase, the right time of day for them to eat,” she says.

Based on the research, however, it’s not possible, Arble says, to set an optimal time window for people to eat to maintain weight. Rather, she hopes the finding will be a trigger for obesity scientists who study people to focus more closely on the concept of the timing of eating.

In the study, Arble and her colleagues gave two groups of mice, who are nocturnal and expected to eat at night, the same high fat diet. They gave one group access to food at night and the other group access during the day. Both groups could eat as much as they wanted during the 12-hour feeding phase.

She is hopeful that other researchers will focus on the same concept in human studies.

“If it turns out to be a major factor,” she says of the food timing, “it will be a great way to help weight maintenance and maybe weight loss. It would be a fairly simple behavior modification, to move the time you are eating.”

But night-time eating would be factor among many contributing to weight gain, says Arble.

“I don’t want people to read this study and think ‘Oh, I can eat as much as I want as long as it’s the right time of day.”

“Eating too much late at night is not good,” says Arline D. Salbe, PhD, a senior research fellow at the Kronos Longevity Research Institute in Phoenix, who has also researched and published on the topic.

“In a simple but elegant study design using mice, Arble (and her colleagues) have confirmed our own results in humans that night-time eating is a risk for weight gain,” says Salbe. “As modern lifestyles continue to modify work and sleep patterns, the risk of weight gain from night-time energy intake becomes more relevant to greater numbers of people,” she says;

In her own study, Salbe and her colleagues evaluated the food intake of 94 people over a three-day period while they stayed in a clinical research unit and were allowed to eat as much as they wished. They found that 29 were night eaters, defined as those who ate between 11p.m. and 5a.m. on at least one of the three days; 65 were not night eaters.

When they followed them for nearly 3.5 years, the night eaters gained 13.6 pounds while the non-night eaters gained 3.7.

The night-time eating, Salbe found, predicted weight gain.

Her advice? “I think the healthiest way to maintain weight is to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” Salbe says.

“If dinner is early enough and you stay up late enough, having a snack at 8 or 9 o’clock is perfectly fine.”

By snack, she says, she means a small amount of food, not an overflowing plate of pasta.


Source: The MIRROR

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