Friday, September 11, 2009

Late night eating

I just read this on Dr. Andrew Weil's website:

"Want to Lose Weight? Don’t Eat Late

The timing of your meals may influence your weight, at least if you're a mouse. A new study from Northwestern University suggests that late-night snacks or eating when you should be asleep can pile on pounds. The researchers were investigating why shift workers who are on the job at irregular hours tend to be overweight. So they fed mice a high fat diet during normal mouse sleeping time and fed the same diet to a control group of mice during the hours when the animals are naturally awake. All the mice gained, but the ones fed when they should have been asleep increased their weight by 48 percent compared to the others whose weight went up only 20 percent. All the mice ate the same number of calories and performed equal amounts of exercise. This suggests that the timing of meals matters to weight control. Earlier research found that our circadian clock regulates energy use, which implies that when we eat may affect the balance between calories consumed and the number of calories burned daily. The study was published online Sept. 3, 2009 by the journal Obesity."

If you're like lots of artists I know and love, you like to work late at night--and maybe even have snacks to keep you company (along with NPR, of course!).
Anyway, I just thought it's a really good thing to keep in mind. Maybe a cup of unsweetened tea would be a good companion!


  1. My problem is that I forget to eat if I'm really busy (and I DO work late. Vampirically late, actually). I've read contradictory opinions on this. I do eat lighter later in the day, though as I've found my metabolism has definitely slowed down as I've gotten older.

  2. Thanks for posting this Julie! I've been trying to eat a lot less in the evenings and have really cut back on having a glass of wine or martini late at night (I keep forgetting that those are loaded with carbs an calories too). This research is really eye opening. I always thought that circadian clocks varied by individual; i.e. a "morning person" had a very different circadian clock than a "night person" does. But if I'm reading this correctly it sounds like the circadian clock is set by what is "species appropriate" rather than by individual preferences. So even though I've never been a morning person and wake up around 9-10am every day, then go to sleep between 2-4pm, my circadian clock is still causing my body to use more energy between dawn and 9-10pm because that's the normal time for activity for our species? If that's the case then I guess eating past 7pm isn't a great idea if we're trying to lose weight. I think I read-maybe it was in one of Dr. Weil's books-that a person should stop eating four hours before bedtime if they are working to keep their weight down, but that would be 11pm most nights for me, which doesn't do me any favors according to the study! Well, it certainly gives me another reason to curb those late night dinners and drinks!

  3. Like Joe, I had also read lots of contradictory information about this idea in the past, but that's why I like this study--because, as Jen put it so well, the clock seems to be species appropriate.
    Now, when should I eat if I was a golden retriever in my last life (one of my favorite things to pretend!)? That's something to ponder.

  4. D'oh! I need to proof read my posts before I post them! I meant "then go to sleep between 2-4AM", since I do stay awake for more than six hours a day! ;P

    Well, I don't know what the best times are for golden retrievers to chow down, but I'd be willing to bet that you've got everything timed just right during THIS lifetime. Ah, what I wouldn't give for as much self discipline!

  5. Thanks, Jen! That's a sweet thing to say. As for your typing error, since I know you stay up late, it took me a couple of re-reads to catch that you were saying 2-4PM instead of AM. That would be a short day for sure!

  6. College+Taco Bell=Really bad eating habits.
    Thank God I have seen the light! lol.

  7. I wonder what one does if one is 1.)already a night owl and 2.)has ongoing deadlines that make staying up even later more and more common place? I rarely go to bed before 2am anymore when I'm working, and if I didn't eat again after the family dinner (between 5:30-6:00pm) it would be 8 hours of working-without-sustenance - which would make me grumpy and wildly inefficient... Haven't come up with a good solution to that one.