Late dinners can contribute to weight gain and high blood sugar, according to a small study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, the journal of the American Endocrine Society.
It is estimated that more than 2.1 billion adults are overweight or obese, making health complications such as diabetes and high blood pressure more likely. Some studies suggest that eating calories later in the day is associated with obesity and metabolic syndrome.
“This study sheds new light on how eating a late dinner worsens glucose tolerance and reduces the amount of fat burned. The effect of eating late varies greatly among people and depends on their usual bedtime,” explains study author Jonathan C. Jun, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, United States.
This shows that some people may be more vulnerable to eating late than others,” he adds. If the metabolic effects we see with a single meal continue to occur chronically, then eating late may lead to consequences such as diabetes or obesity.
The researchers studied 20 healthy volunteers (10 men and 10 women) to see how they metabolized dinner at 10 p.m. compared to 6 p.m. All of the volunteers went to bed at 11 p.m. The researchers found that blood sugar levels were higher and the amount of fat burned was lower with the subsequent dinner, even when the same meal was provided at the two different times.
“On average, the maximum glucose level after the late dinner was about 18% higher, and the amount of fat burned during the night decreased by about 10% compared to an earlier dinner. The effects we’ve seen in healthy volunteers may be more pronounced in people with obesity or diabetes, who already have a compromised metabolism,” adds the study’s first author, Chenjuan Gu of Johns Hopkins University.