Over 2.1 billion adults are estimated to have overweight or obesity which makes health complications like diabetes and high blood pressure more likely.
Some studies suggest that consuming calories later in the day is linked to obesity and metabolic syndrome.
In a recent study at Johns Hopkins University, researchers found that eating a late dinner could contribute to weight gain and high blood sugar.
The effect of late eating varies greatly between people and depends on their usual bedtime.
Some people might be more vulnerable to late eating than others.
If the metabolic effects with a single meal keep occurring chronically, then late eating could lead to consequences such as diabetes or obesity.
The findings shed new light on how eating a late dinner worsens glucose tolerance and reduces the amount of fat burned.
The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. One author is Jonathan C. Jun, M.D., of the School of Medicine in Baltimore.
In the study, the researchers studied 20 healthy volunteers (10 men and 10 women) to see how they metabolized dinner eaten at 10 p.m. compared to 6 p.m. The volunteers all went to bed at 11 p.m.
The researchers found that blood sugar levels were higher, and the amount of ingested fat burned was lower with the later dinner, even when the same meal was provided at the two different times.
On average, the peak glucose level after late dinner was about 18% higher, and the amount of fat burned overnight decreased by about 10% compared to eating an earlier dinner.
The effects we have seen in healthy volunteers might be more pronounced in people with obesity or diabetes, who already have a compromised metabolism.
This is not the first study to show the effects of late eating, but it is one of the most detailed.
The team says they still need to do more experiments to see if these effects continue over time, and if the effects are caused more by behavior (such as sleeping soon after a meal) or by the body clock.
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