The Tricky Science of Late Night Gorging

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Think carefully before you stick your head in the fridge at night.

Listen up all of you people who stay up past 10 at night and eat at least a bowl of cereal before going to bed. You’ve probably heard it before, either from one of your parents, your spouse, roommate, etc. that eating before bedtime will make you gain weight. Sleeping with a belly full of food doesn’t quite sound like a great way to take off a few pounds, and most of us probably don’t understand our bodies enough to actually counter-argue that statement. Well, it turns out, no one really does.

There have been studies done in the past in mice. Researchers compared mice that ate during their normal meal times with mice fed in opposition to their normal circadian rhythm. It turns out the mice that were fed outside their normal feeding hours gain significantly more weight than the mice that ate during their waking hours, even if it was the same amount of food given to them. However, it also turns out studies done on humans did not provide the same conclusion.

During the studies, researchers also noticed we tend to eat more late at night. In fact, the study found people who ate in the later hours consumed about 500 calories more per day than individuals who only eat during the day. In the end, the night-time eaters gained about 10 more pounds compared to their initial weight. Maybe this is why eating before bedtime started becoming correlated with weight gain.

So, in the end, it turns out it is what we eat, rather than when we eat, that determines if we gain, lose or maintain our weight. Even though we may never really quite know if this is true or if our research had been faulty from the beginning, it’s a good idea to control what we eat, when we eat, and how we eat (for those of you who may have forgotten where food is supposed to go).