Dinner at 5 p.m. may be healthier, study finds

Dinner at 5 p.m. may be healthier, study finds

The world belongs to those who get up early.

A new study by Harvard Medical School researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston suggests that eating earlier in the day may be better for us – and eating all meals within a 10-hour window may also be healthier.

The research, published in Cell Metabolism, found that the time we eat affects our hunger and appetite, our energy levels and how the body stores fat.

A new study suggests that eating earlier in the day may be better for you – and eating all meals within a 10-hour window may also be healthier.
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“In this study, we asked, ‘Does the time we eat matter when everything else is consistent?'” said Nina Vujovic, a researcher in the hospital’s division of sleep and circadian disorders and author. of the study.

The researchers asked 16 overweight participants to eat the exact same meals at two different times: one earlier in the day and the second about four hours later in the day. For example, a person might eat meals at 9 a.m., 1 p.m., and 5 p.m., while someone in the latter group would eat at 1 p.m., 5 p.m., and 9 p.m.

Close up of a group of friends having breakfast and coffee together
Eating later more than doubled the likelihood of increased hunger and resulted in lower levels of the hormone leptin, which is produced when we are full.
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Participants self-reported their hunger and appetite while researchers collected blood samples, body temperature levels and energy expenditure. The researchers also performed adipose tissue biopsies to compare how levels between the two eating patterns and gene expression patterns affected molecular pathways involved in adipogenesis – or how the body stores fat.

“We wanted to test the mechanisms that may explain why eating late increases the risk of obesity,” explained lead author Frank Scheer, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Division of Sleep and Medical Chronobiology Program. Brigham and Women’s Circadian Disorders. . “Previous research by us and others has shown that eating late is associated with an increased risk of obesity, increased body fat and reduced weight loss. We wanted to understand why.

During the two to three weeks leading up to the study, participants had to maintain a strict sleeping and waking schedule, and during the previous three days they followed identical diets and meal schedules.

Family enjoying family time and having variety of traditional dim sum in chinese restaurant.
The research, published in Cell Metabolism, found that the time we eat affects our hunger and appetite, our energy levels and how the body stores fat.
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The results showed that eating late increased hunger, decreased energy expenditure, burned calories at a slower rate, and altered gene expression in adipose tissue, which promotes fat growth, showing that all of these changes combined can increase the risk of obesity. Eating later more than doubled the likelihood of increased hunger and resulted in lower levels of the hormone leptin, which is produced when we are full.

“We found that eating four hours later made a significant difference to our hunger levels, how we burn calories after eating, and how we store fat,” Vujovic said.

Vujovic said these findings were consistent with many other studies, but this one now shows how and why eating later could increase the risk of obesity. The researchers were able to detect changes in different control systems using a randomized crossover study and with tightly controlled behavioral and environmental factors, including physical activity, posture, sleep, and light exposure.

The researchers hope to eventually expand the study to take into account other variables that might be present when not in a controlled setting.

“This study shows the impact of late eating compared to early eating. Here, we isolated these effects by controlling for confounding variables such as calorie intake, physical activity, sleep, and exposure to light, but in real life many of these factors can themselves be influenced by mealtimes,” Scheer said.

“In larger-scale studies, where tight control of all of these factors is not possible, we need to at least consider how other behavioral and environmental variables alter these biological pathways underlying obesity risk.”

The study is good news for New Yorkers, who have started opting for dinner at 5 p.m. rather than 8 p.m.

According to the New York Times, New Yorkers are choosing to eat earlier in the day to mark the end of their working day – as the blurred lines between work and personal life have become commonplace since the pandemic.

Margot Finn, a lecturer in food studies at the University of Michigan, told the newspaper that 5 p.m. isn’t necessarily when people want to eat, but rather “when they want to be somewhere else.”

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