fat storage is linked to mealtimes

What if eating less late helped us gain less weight? This is the conclusion of American researchers.

The specialist journal Cell Metabolism relayed the findings of a study by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

According to them, eating late at night is harmful to our metabolism and our internal biological clock, with a long-term increase in the risk of obesity and overweight. Here, the scientists wanted to try to dissect the mechanism that associates a late meal schedule with the risk of obesity.

Sixteen patients studied

To reach this conclusion, sixteen participants with a body mass index (BMI) between overweight and obesity were followed. Each was subjected to two six-day experiments incorporating control of sleep and diet, interspersed with several weeks of testing without analysis.

One experiment called for a strict three-meal-a-day schedule at standard American meal times (breakfast at 9 a.m., lunch at 1 p.m., and dinner around 6 p.m.). The other provided for three staggered meals (from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.).

Blood and fat samples

At the same time as these controls, samples of blood and adipose tissue were taken. What finding? The authors first report:

Energy expenditure was significantly lower in the late feeding conditions than in the early feeding conditions.

In short, the later the volunteers ate, the more their bodies stored fat. At the caloric level, those who ate later burned 5% fewer calories.

A bigger hunger

The authors of the study also noted that participants who ate late had a greater desire for meat, dairy products or even starchy foods. Why ? Leptin and acylated ghrelin, two appetite-regulating hormones, were affected.

Scientists want further studies to include different other population categories. Franck Scheer, director of the medical chronobiology program in the division of sleep disorders and circadian rhythm at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, summarizes the interest:

In larger-scale studies, where it is not possible to tightly control all of these factors, we need to at least examine how other behavioral and environmental variables alter these biological pathways that underlie obesity risk.

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