Do you often eat dinner late, after getting drinks, or have your lunch interrupted by last-minute meetings? Recent research suggests that when you eat can affect your health just like what you eat.
A pair of studies recently published in the journal Proceedings of the Nutrition Society found that people who eat at random times have higher BMIs and blood pressure than people who follow roughly the same schedule every day. A randomized controlled trial showed that people who ate the same number of meals at the same times of day had lower cholesterol and blood-sugar levels.
As Gerda Pot, PhD, a visiting lecturer in the diabetes and nutritional sciences division at King’s College London, who worked on both papers, told Health: “We found that adults consuming calories during regular meals — at similar times from one day to [the] next — were less obese than people who have irregular meals, despite consuming more calories overall.” Very unfair for those who can’t help but snack during Netflix binges, and especially so for people who work rotating shifts.
The researchers also looked at international eating patterns and found that eating more calories in the evening was associated with obesity. People in the U.S. and the U.K. (countries that have high obesity rates) ate the fewest calories at breakfast and increased their intake as the day went on. But they can’t say for certain if it’s healthiest to spread your calories evenly throughout the day or to eat the most at breakfast.
Eating at random times can also mess with your circadian rhythms and affect your sleep, which can make you gain weight. If you’re having trouble keeping weight off, trying to stick to a meal schedule might be worth a shot.