What is the ideal time to eat dinner and not gain weight?

Over the years we have heard from the health profession that “eating at night is fattening”, but the reasons for this statement were unknown.

Now, a team of Harvard scientists investigated the reasons why late mealtimes influence body weight and scientifically demonstrated that eating late makes us burn fewer calories, increases hunger and causes changes in adipose tissue, and the combination of these factors increases the risk of obesity. The results of the study were published in Cell Metabolism.

For the purposes of the study, the authors asked a group of obese or overweight people to try two different meal times with identical diets. In the first schedule, participants ate breakfast, lunch and dinner, but finished the last meal six and a half hours before bedtime. They did so for 6 days in a row.

In the second schedule, breakfast and lunch were four hours later and they had dinner two and a half hours before bedtime.

In both tests, participants regularly reported their hunger and appetite levels, had blood tests throughout the day, and had their body temperature and energy expenditure measured.

Finally, to measure how mealtime affected the way the body stores fat, the researchers collected biopsies of adipose tissue, observing that eating later in the day increased participants’ hunger, decreased the amount of calories they burned, and promoted fat storage. Effects that, over time, can lead to weight gain.

“When meals are delayed by four hours and everything else remains the same, you burn fewer calories,” Frank Scheer, author of the study.

Likewise, “you have a greater drive for food and experience changes in fat tissue that would promote weight gain,” Scheer added.

In processing the results, the researchers concluded that when we dine late, a series of physiological and molecular mechanisms are triggered in the body that increase the risk of obesity.

In the first instance, they detected that the levels of the hormone leptin, which indicates satiety, are reduced when eating late. In addition, calories are burned at a slower rate and the expression of genes that favor the growth of adipose tissue is increased.

According to the study, establishing early meal times, i.e. having lunch between 12 and 1 p.m. and dinner with a light menu six hours before bedtime, increases levels of leptin, the satiety hormone, and this helps to reduce caloric intake. Additionally, it accelerates the burning of calories because the metabolism is more active and less fat is accumulated. Therefore, eating dinner early should be among our healthy habits.

Published by Emirates Herald, news and information agency.

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