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Archive for November 16th, 2017

Will eating a bedtime snack affect your weight? It may. Researchers in Boston recruited college students to determine if biological clocks had any effect on gaining weight. Researchers hospitalized participants for one night to determine when their melatonin, the hormone that signals a person’s biological night, began to rise. Levels of melatonin elevate when the body shifts to the night phase of our circadian rhythm.

In the study, both lean and heavier participants had similar times for the onset of melatonin. Those with higher percentages of fat tended to eat closer to the time for melatonin to begin rising than participants who were leaner. Those with excessive weight consumed most of their calories about an hour before the rise of melatonin.

We can’t determine the exact times when night begins for our bodies because it requires specific measurements. However, melatonin levels tend to climb about two hours prior to our normal sleep-time pattern. With that as our guide, food eaten about two hours or less before normal bedtime may make a difference in weight. In the Boston study, actual clock time, exercise or activity, number of calories eaten, or amount of sleep did not affect the difference in the amount of weight between lean and less lean participants. Food eaten prior to the rise of an individual’s melatonin did make a difference.

What does this study mean to us, especially if we want to lose weight? Will eating well before bedtime improve our weight? Maybe. Eating late-night meals or snacks as well as in the middle of the night may influence weight gain more than if we ate the same number of calories earlier in the day. This is not a license to eat more calories during the day, but wouldn’t it be great if we weren’t as likely to gain as much weight as eating the same number of calories at bedtime?

Several factors may influence weight and sleep time. Eating later in the day causes a rise in blood glucose levels. Those who consume most of their calories earlier in the day are more likely to be successful at losing weight and keeping it off. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started.

  • Eat heavier meals with high protein for breakfast and lunch.
  • Eat smaller portions at dinner.
  • Avoid alcohol at bedtime.

Especially as we approach extended holidays, try to limit higher calorie foods in the late afternoon and evening. What do we have to lose except weight?

 

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