The struggle to maintain a healthy weight increases with age as our metabolism slows down and things don’t seem to function quite like they used to. Keeping our blood sugar levels in a healthy range is yet another thing we need to pay more attention to as time goes along. We know that what we put into our bodies has a big impact on both of these things, but new research suggests that it’s not just about what we eat, but when we eat it.
Intermittent fasting and time-restricted feeding come up often in conversations surrounding health, body weight, and blood sugar. More and more research supports the idea that when we eat our meals is just as important as what we’re consuming in our diets. And now, results from a recent study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism have demonstrated that when it comes to dinner, earlier is better for several aspects of our health, namely our blood sugar levels and fat metabolism.
Researchers from John’s Hopkins University aimed to find out if eating dinner later actually caused weight gain and higher blood sugar levels, since prior research has only demonstrated a link between eating late and being overweight and/or diabetic (not necessarily proving causation).
For the study, 20 healthy volunteers were assessed (10 male and 10 female). The researchers analyzed how the volunteers’ metabolism was affected by eating dinner at 10 p.m. versus eating at 6 p.m., and going to bed at 11 p.m. Participants had body fat scans beforehand. During the experiment they wore activity trackers to monitor things like their sleep and heart rate, had blood drawn to monitor blood glucose levels, had their fat metabolism monitored with something called an oral lipid tracer, and were given the same meals to eat to ensure accuracy of the findings.
Unsurprisingly, the researchers found that eating the late dinner was associated with higher blood sugar levels and lower fat metabolism. Their results suggested that even when people ate the same meal, eating dinner at 10 p.m. resulted in blood sugar levels that went up as much as 20 percent, while fat burning was reduced by as much as 10 percent when compared with the earlier dinner.
“This study sheds new light on how eating a late dinner worsens glucose tolerance and reduces the amount of fat burned,” said the study’s corresponding author Jonathan C. Jun, MD, of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. “The effect of late eating varies greatly between people and depends on their usual bedtime.”
Another study author, Chenjuan Gu, PhD, added in a statement, “The effects we have seen in healthy volunteers might be more pronounced in people with obesity or diabetes, who already have a compromised metabolism.”
So if you weren’t already convinced that eating dinner earlier was better for your health, this study goes to show it’s true. Try to get your dinner in by 6 p.m., especially if you typically go to bed by 11 p.m., and you can be confident you’re doing great things for your body.
For more healthy ways to control blood sugar, click through our story on 9 Low-Glycemic Fruits to Add to Your Diet.