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How Eating Late Hurts Your Health

posted: 09/02/15
by: Katie Morton
woman choosing between apple and donut at evening lunch
iStock

Do you tend to eat dinner late in the evening, or snack at night? If so, you could be setting yourself up for weight gain.

"For years, we said a calorie is a calorie no matter when you consume it," dietitian Joy Dubost, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told The Washington Post in a recent interview. "I don't know if we can say that anymore, based on the emerging research. The timing of a meal may potentially have an impact."

Two recent studies support the theory that the timing of your meals matters. The first study--which compared weight loss in two groups of overweight people--showed that those who ate their biggest meal of the day after 3 p.m. lost less weight than those who feasted earlier.

The second study showed that those who ate lunch later in the day burned fewer calories. That group also had a hard time burning off carbohydrates and decreased glucose tolerance, which can lead to diabetes.

Many Americans grab breakfast on the way to work, eat a quick lunch at our desks, and then consume most of our calories at dinner. We might even follow that up with dessert or a snack before bed. The problem is, those calories don't get burned off, which can cause weight gain over time.

Which meal should be the biggest one of the day? There isn't consensus over that. But if you're trying to lose weight--or simply trying to not gain it--most nutritionists agree that it definitely shouldn't be dinner. So don't feel guilty about that pizza you had for lunch.