Eating Time Can Seriously Affect Metabolic Health, New Study Says
You've likely heard recommendations from health experts surrounding the timing of meals. Whether your endocrinologist has encouraged eating breakfast within an hour of waking for healthy blood sugar balance or your dietitian has suggested giving your body ample time to digest food before you go to sleep, the topic of when we eat seems to have an impact on metabolism.
A scientific link between obesity and late eating is well established, but the exact mechanism of this association has somewhat stumped scientists. Evidently, the timing of meals1 may have a larger impact on metabolic health than we thought, according to a new study from Cell Metabolism.
The study design.
The goal of the study was to determine how eating time affects appetite, energy balance, and adipose (fat) tissue dynamics in adults with overweight and obesity.
Researchers from Harvard University, University of Chicago, and other academic institutions designed a robust randomized controlled trial that controlled nutrient intake, physical activity, sleep, and even light exposure to determine the impact of late versus early eating.
How late eating affects metabolism.
When compared to early eating (i.e., beginning meal intake one hour after waking up in the morning), late eating (i.e., beginning meals five hours after waking) led to:
- Increased hunger
- Decreased leptin (a key hormone that tells us when we're full/satiated)
- Reduced energy expenditure (aka calorie burn)
- Changes in gene expression (i.e., DNA) tied to increased fat storage
In other words? Eating later is the perfect storm for metabolic health issues. For those with adiposity concerns, delaying meals (especially breakfast!) may contribute to appetite dysregulation and energy balance challenges.
Metabolic health is complex and nuanced, to say the least. This groundbreaking study shows that the timing of meals is a more significant factor in maintaining a healthy metabolism than previously thought.
That said, changing the timing of meals isn't the only way to support a healthy, active metabolism. For individuals looking for science-backed and targeted nutritional support, a holistic metabolism supplement like mindbodygreen's metabolism+ (which includes clinically researched botanicals like cayenne pepper, veld grape, grains of paradise, and EGCG and caffeine from green tea) can help optimize metabolic efficiency, activate calorie burn and fat metabolism, and support energy balance and satiety.*
Morgan Chamberlain is a supplement editor at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science degree in magazine journalism and a minor in nutrition. Chamberlain believes in taking small steps to improve your well-being—whether that means eating more plant-based foods, checking in with a therapist weekly, or spending quality time with your closest friends. When she isn’t typing away furiously at her keyboard, you can find her cooking in the kitchen, hanging outside, or doing a vinyasa flow.