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Eating later than 10 p.m. makes you fatter, according to research from Harvard


Eating late at night increases the risk of obesity by slowing your metabolism and making you hungrier the next day, a study suggests.

Doctors have been warning about midnight snacks for years because you have no chance of burning it off before going to sleep.

Now researchers at Harvard University have shown that it also has a knock-on effect on the body the next day.

People who had their last meal at 10 p.m. burned fewer calories the next day and had higher levels of hunger hormones than those who ate at 6 p.m.

They also had fewer chemicals in the body that left us feeling full and satisfied after meals, and they were more likely to gain weight.

Lead author of the study Dr. Nina Vujović, an intern in circadian rhythms in health and disease, said: “In this study, we asked, “Does the time we eat matter if everything else is kept consistent?”

“And we found that eating four hours later makes a significant difference to our hunger levels, the way we burn calories after we eat, and the way we store fat.”

Avoiding midnight snack and early breakfast may be key to staying slim, another study indicates

Avoiding midnight snack and early breakfast may be key to staying slim, another study indicates

The researchers looked at 16 overweight or obese patients between the ages of 20 and 60.

Each participant followed two schedules in a lab: one in which they ate early, with dinner at 6:00 PM, and the other with identical meals, but scheduled four hours later in the day, with dinner at 10:00 PM.

For two to three weeks before each schedule started in the lab, the patients went to bed and woke up at the same time.


Obesity is defined as an adult with a BMI of 30 or higher.

A healthy person’s BMI – calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in meters, and the answer again by height – is between 18.5 and 24.9.

In children, obesity is defined as being in the 95th percentile.

Percentiles compare young people with others of the same age.

For example, if a three-month-old child is in the 40th percentile for weight, that means 40 percent of the three-month-old weighs the same or less than that baby.

About two in five men and women in the US are obese.

The condition costs the U.S. health care system about $173 billion a year.

This is because obesity increases the risk of a number of life-threatening conditions.

Such conditions include type 2 diabetes, which can cause kidney disease, blindness, and even limb amputations.

Obesity also increases the risk of heart disease, which kills 647,000 in the US each year – making it the leading cause of death.

Carrying dangerous amounts of weight has also been linked to 12 different cancers.

This includes breast, which affects one in eight women at some point in their lives.

In children, research suggests that 70 percent of obese youth have high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol, which puts them at risk for heart disease.

Obese children are also significantly more likely to become obese adults.

And if children are overweight, their obesity in adulthood is often more severe.

As many as one in five children in the US attend school who are overweight or obese.

For the past three days, they all ate the same meals at the same times at home.

During the schedules, the participants regularly recorded their hunger and appetite, took blood samples throughout the day and had their body temperature and energy expenditure measured.

In the lab, the researchers rigorously controlled environmental factors that can influence a person’s appetite or energy expenditure, such as exercise, posture, sleep and light exposure.

The researchers also took tissue samples from some patients during both schedules to compare their fat reserves.

They found that eating later in the day the next day increased levels of the hormone grehlin, causing us to crave foods, especially sweet or salty snacks.

The levels of leptin, which makes us feel full and satisfied, were lower.

When the patients ate later, they also burned calories more slowly and had tissue samples that showed more fat growth.

In the future, the research team wants to study more women, as only five of the 16 participants were women.

Senior study author Dr Frank Scheer, an expert in sleep and circadian disorders, said: ‘This study shows the impact of eating late versus eating early.

‘Here we isolated these effects by controlling for confounding variables such as caloric intake, physical activity, sleep and light exposure, but in real life many of these factors can themselves be influenced by meal timing.

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

The findings were published in the journal cell metabolism.

Past research has found that eating late at night raises blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes, the form linked to obesity.

Levels of melatonin, the hormone central to sleep, are high around bedtime, and eating interferes with blood sugar levels.

A 2021 U.S. survey by the International Food Information Council Survey found that about 60 percent of adults ages 18 to 80 admit to snacking after 8 p.m.

A 2019 poll by ice cream brand Nightfood found that 83 percent of Americans said they snack at least one night a week, and 20 percent said they snack every night.

The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control recommends four to five smaller meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and one or two snacks throughout the day.

The average time people dine in the US is 6:22 PM, but it varies between 4:30 PM and 10:59 PM.