Your body clock can influence your weight, study shows

It’s all to do with melatonin levels

By Jenny Cook

Our body clock is responsible for what time we wake up, when we go to sleep and how we feel throughout the day, but did you know that it can also influence your weight?

It has long been debated among dieters whether timing meals throughout the day can increase the likelihood of weight loss, and they might be onto something. For the first time, researchers in America have taken a close look at how our eating habits can be affected by our sleeping patterns, and it seems there is indeed a link.

The study

Scientists analysed data from 110 adults aged between 18 and 22, documenting sleep and circadian behaviours within their regular daily routines. Food intake was also logged over the course of seven consecutive days using an app, and body composition and timing of melatonin release (which marks the onset of sleep) was assessed in a lab.

It was found that the participants with the highest body fat percentages ate the majority of their daily calories shortly before bed – suggesting that the most important factor in promoting weight loss is to wait for a few hours between your evening meal and going to sleep. This gives the body time to digest. Conversely, those with lower percentages of body fat tended to stay awake for several hours after eating. Lead author Andrew McHill, Ph.D., said:

“We found that the timing of food intake relative to melatonin onset, a marker of a person’s biological night, is associated with higher percent body fat and BMI, and not associated with the time of day, amount or composition of food intake.”

He added:

“These findings suggest that the timing of when you consume calories, relative to your own biological timing may be more important for health than the actual time of day.”

Although the young age of the sample may not be representative of the population as a whole, these results do offer evidence that eating in accordance to our individual body clocks could play an important role in long-term weight management.

The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

 

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