Later Meals Increase Hunger, Decrease Calories Burned

Dining later in the day may make it harder to resist eating too much food and more difficult to burn off all the calories you consume, according to a new a study that offers fresh insight into why skipping breakfast or late-night snacking might contribute to obesity .

Even though eating snacks after dinner has long been linked to an increased risk of obesity, less is known about exactly why consuming food too close to bedtime might cause people to gain weight. For the new study, scientists set up a lab experiment to see how changing when people ate — but not what they ate — might impact three factors that can play a role in body weight and the risk of obesity: food cravings and appetite, the ability to burn calories, and the molecular composition of fat tissue.

“We wanted to test the mechanisms that may explain why late eating increases obesity risk,” says senior author Frank Scheer, PhD, director of the Medical Chronobiology Program in the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders in Boston.

“Previous research by us and others had shown that late eating is associated with increased obesity, increased body fat risk, and impaired weight loss success,” Scheer says. “We wanted to understand why.”

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