Scottish Daily Mail

How to diet with­out even notic­ing? Don’t eat af­ter 7.30pm

- Dr Michael MOSLEY Health · Health Tips · Cancer · Women's Health · Medicine · Lifestyle · Healthy Living · Healthy Food · Health Conditions · Tehran · Iran · University School · United States of America · Tehran University of Medical Sciences · Tehran University

When our kids were young my wife Clare and I were of­ten so busy i n the early evening — feed­ing them, putting them to bed and read­ing them sto­ries — that we’d end up col­lapsed in front of the TV, be­fore then cook­ing the evening meal. This meant we’d of­ten find our­selves eat­ing well af­ter 9pm.

But more re­cently we’ve made an ef­fort to start eat­ing our din­ner by 7.30pm, as well as avoid­ing too many late-night snacks.

Do­ing so is al­most cer­tainly good for the waist­line, as a re­cent study from the Univer­sity of not­ting­ham and Tehran Univer­sity of Med­i­cal Sciences in Iran con­firmed.

The re­searchers had asked 82 healthy but over­weight women to go on a weight-loss pro­gramme — the women didn’t nor­mally fin­ish their evening meals un­til well af­ter 10pm, but now half were asked to fin­ish their eat­ing by 7.30pm at the lat­est.

Af­ter 12 weeks both groups had lost weight, but those who changed to eat­ing ear­lier in the evening had lost an aver­age of 15lb, com­pared with less than 11lb for the late eaters. In other words, just by chang­ing the time they ate the early eaters had shed an ex­tra 4lb. They also lost an ex­tra inch around the waist and ex­pe­ri­enced greater im­prove­ments in their choles­terol and blood fats.

ThIS wasn’t be­cause the lat­ereat­ing group con­sumed more — the two groups essen­tially had the same calo­rie in­take. In­stead, the re­searchers think that, among other things, late-night eat­ing might af­fect the genes that con­trol your body clock, lead­ing to a greater risk of obe­sity (and type 2 di­a­betes).

I wasn’t en­tirely sur­prised by this be­cause a few years ago, as part of a science doc­u­men­tary, I did an ex­per­i­ment where I ate a clas­sic Bri­tish fry-up, with lots of ba­con, eggs and sausage, at 10am and then again at 10pm.

Straight af­ter my morn­ing meal I had a blood sam­ple taken, and then again ev­ery half-hour for the next few hours. Af­ter that, I had noth­ing but wa­ter un­til 10pm, when I had ex­actly the same meal. Again, my blood was taken reg­u­larly over the next few hours.

When the re­sults of the blood tests came back, they were pretty shock­ing. Af­ter eat­ing a big fry-up in the morn­ing my blood sugar and fat lev­els quickly rose, but soon re­turned to nor­mal as my body used them as fuel, or stored them around my gut for later.

What hap­pened in the evening, how­ever, was very dif­fer­ent. De­spite eat­ing ex­actly the same meal, my blood sugar lev­els went up and stayed high for sev­eral hours. The fat lev­els in my blood were even worse, still ris­ing at 2am, four hours af­ter I’d fin­ished eat­ing. And the next morn­ing I woke up feel­ing knack­ered — and starv­ing.

Fur­ther proof that late-night eat­ing re­ally does al­ter your abil­ity to han­dle f ood comes f rom a re­cent study by Johns hop­kins Univer­sity School of Medicine in the U.S., which found that when healthy vol­un­teers had their din­ner within an hour of go­ing to bed, they burnt 10 per cent less fat overnight than when they stopped eat­ing three hours be­fore shut-eye.

What is clear from many stud­ies is that our bod­ies don’t like hav­ing to deal with lots of food late at night. A mid­night snack will have a worse im­pact on you than the same food eaten ear­lier in the day.

not only is this be­cause latenight eat­ing al­ters your body clock, but it also seems to al­ter your mi­cro­biome, the 100 tril­lion mi­crobes that live in your gut. eat­ing l ate en­cour­ages t he growth of ‘ bad’ mi­crobes that raise in­flam­ma­tion (long term, a risk f or health as it dam­ages healthy tis­sue).

Fi­nally, we know that your gut needs down­time, to get on with es­sen­tial re­pairs. It is a bit like a mo­tor­way, which takes a ter­rific pound­ing from all the traf­fic that goes along it.

Just as you can’t patch up a mo­tor­way when there are cars and lor­ries trav­el­ling along it, your body can’t get on with its re­pairs while you’re con­stantly eat­ing.

The changes in the body clock caused by late-night eat­ing may also help ex­plain why shift work­ers are at greater risk of cer­tain can­cers. We know, for ex­am­ple, that women who work nights have an in­creased risk of breast can­cer. Work­ing (and prob­a­bly eat­ing) at night af­fects the body clock, and in turn, dis­rupts the re­lease of hor­mones. Many cases of breast can­cer are linked to ab­nor­mal hor­mone lev­els.

no one has yet car­ried out a trial to test the im­pact of late-night eat­ing on breast can­cer, but the Women’s healthy eat­ing and Liv­ing study shows timing could be sig­nif­i­cant.

This trial in­volved around 2,400 Amer­i­can women with breast can­cer who were ran­domly al­lo­cated to ei­ther a low-fat diet or given a pam­phlet on the ben­e­fits of ‘five-a- day’. They were then mon­i­tored for over seven years to see if go­ing low fat re­duced the risk of their breast can­cer re­cur­ring.

The an­swer was a re­sound­ing ‘no’. De­spite re­duc­ing their fat in­take by 19 per cent, the low-fat di­eters were no bet­ter off than the con­trol group.

But the in­ter­est­ing thing is that the women were asked to keep de­tailed records of not only what they ate, but when they ate. And those who typ­i­cally ate af­ter 8pm were sig­nif­i­cantly f at­ter than those who ate ear­lier; they were also at greater risk of breast can­cer re­cur­rence.

Although I now try to eat my evening meals by 7.30pm ( an ar­bi­trary time based on what is con­ve­nient), this would still be con­sid­ered late in some coun­tries.

In nor­way they typ­i­cally eat their evening meals by 5pm. Since the nor­we­gians are reg­u­larly rated as among the health­i­est and hap­pi­est peo­ple in the world, per­haps we should all fol­low their ex­am­ple.

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