September 7, 2009
Science Daily/Northwestern University
Eat less, exercise more. Now there is new evidence to support adding another "must" to the weight-loss mantra: eat at the right time of day.
A Northwestern University study has found that eating at irregular times -- the equivalent of the middle of the night for humans, when the body wants to sleep -- influences weight gain. The regulation of energy by the body's circadian rhythms may play a significant role. The study is the first causal evidence linking meal timing and increased weight gain.
"One of our research interests is shift workers, who tend to be overweight," said lead author Deanna M. Arble, a doctoral student in Turek's lab. "Their schedules force them to eat at times that conflict with their natural body rhythms. This was one piece of evidence that got us thinking -- eating at the wrong time of day might be contributing to weight gain. So we started our investigation with this experiment."
Simply modifying the time of feeding alone can greatly affect body weight, the researchers found. Mice that were fed a high-fat diet during normal sleeping hours gained significantly more weight (a 48 percent weight increase over their baseline) than mice eating the same type and amount of food during naturally wakeful hours (a 20 percent increase over their baseline). There was no statistical difference between the two groups regarding caloric intake or the amount of activity.