Late Night Snacking Could Cause Serious Health Problems


Most people believe that they should not consume too many foods late at night, but the reason is often unknown. Usually it is just to be healthier, to lose weight, or to avoid the sugar cravings that often set in as the hours go by.

However, this common belief does have some merit, as new research suggests that eating meals late at night can be damaging to a person’s metabolism.

Credit: Richard Giles/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

The University of Pennsylvania has uncovered new findings regarding the dangers of eating late at night. According to their study, it is possible that delaying eating until later in the day can cause weight gain, a spike in insulin levels and higher cholesterol, and negatively impact metabolic rate. These side effects of late night eating are alarming, as these factors can contribute to heart disease, type II diabetes and other chronic illnesses.

“Eating later can promote a negative profile of weight, energy, and hormone markers – such as higher glucose and insulin, which are implicated in diabetes, and cholesterol and triglycerides, which are linked with cardiovascular problems and other health conditions,” said Dr. Namni Goel. Goel, research associate professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, was the lead author of the study.

Related: Night Owls Might Be More Likely to Make Unhealthy Food Choices

In this study, nine adults were brought together to test the effects of different times of intermittent fasting. For eight weeks, they ate between the hours of 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.; for another eight weeks, they ate between the hours of noon and 11 p.m. In between the different eight-week trials, there were two weeks in which the subjects did not adhere to any eating schedule in order to prevent any effects from carrying over. The nine adults were given blood tests and checked for changes in weight, metabolic performance and other measures.

After the second eight-week period, there were specific changes in all of the measures that provided insight into the negative effects of late night eating. Their weight had increased, their metabolism of lipids and carbohydrates had slowed down, and glucose levels had risen.

Kelly Allison, Ph.D., an associate professor of Psychology in Psychiatry and Director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders, commented on the findings in the study.

Related: Eating Less Salt Could Mean Fewer Midnight Bathroom Trips

“While lifestyle change is never easy, these findings suggest that eating earlier in the day may be worth the effort to help prevent these detrimental chronic health effects. We have an extensive knowledge of how overeating affects health and body weight, but now we have a better understanding of how our body processes foods at different times of day over a long period of time,” Allison said.

While intermittent fasting becomes more widespread among fitness enthusiasts as a way of eating, it is important to take findings such as these into account. It is known that it can be used for weight loss and can be an effective tool, but must be done properly. Timing meals for earlier in the day is a wise decision, as this ongoing study has revealed that a simple change in timing can make world of difference.