According to a study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, eating a late dinner may contribute to weight gain and high blood sugar.
Over 2.1 billion adults are estimated to be overweight or obese which make health complications like diabetes and high blood pressure more likely. Some studies suggest that consuming calories later in the day is associated with obesity and metabolic syndrome.
This recent study sheds new light on how eating a late dinner worsens glucose tolerance and reduces the amount of fat burned. The effect of late eating varies greatly between people and depends on their usual bedtime. This shows that some people might be more vulnerable to late eating than others. If the metabolic effects we observed with a single meal keep occurring chronically, then late eating could 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 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 percent higher, and the amount of fat burned overnight decreased by about 10 percent compared to eating an earlier dinner. "The effects were seen in healthy volunteers and might be more pronounced in people with obesity or diabetes, who already have a compromised metabolism," said the study's first author Chenjuan Gu, M.D., Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins University.
This is not the first study to show effects of late eating, but it is one of the most detailed. Participants wore activity trackers, had blood sampling every hour while staying in a lab, underwent sleep studies and body fat scans, and ate food that contained non-radioactive labels so that the rate of fat burning (oxidation) could be determined.