Eating late causing obesity in Ugandans

Eating, even small amounts, late in the night is linked to obesity, decreased calories burned, and changes in fat tissue, a study indicates.

Recent data from the Nutrition Situation Report by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) indicates that 2 in 10 women are obese. It also follows that 7.5% of Ugandan women have high blood pressure.

While popular healthy diet mantras advise against midnight snacking, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital study titled “Eating late increases hunger, decreases calories burned, and changes fat tissue” carried in Science Daily provides experimental evidence that late eating causes decreased energy expenditure, increased hunger, and changes in fat tissue that combined may increase obesity risk.

The general Brigham healthcare system, found that when we eat significantly impacts our energy expenditure, appetite, and molecular pathways in adipose tissue. Their results are published in Cell Metabolism.

“We wanted to test the mechanisms that may explain why late eating increases obesity risk,” explained senior author Frank A. J. L. Scheer, PhD, Director of the Medical Chronobiology Program in the Brigham’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders.

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

Vujovic, Scheer and their team studied 16 patients with a body mass index (BMI) in the overweight or obese range. Each participant completed two laboratory protocols: one with a strictly scheduled early meal schedule, and the other with the exact same meals, each scheduled about four hours later in the day.

In the last two to three weeks before starting each of the in-laboratory protocols, participants maintained fixed sleep and wake schedules, and in the final three days before entering the laboratory, they strictly followed identical diets and meal schedules at home.

In the lab, participants regularly documented their hunger and appetite, provided frequent small blood samples throughout the day, and had their body temperature and energy expenditure measured.

Results revealed that eating later had profound effects on hunger and appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin, which influence our drive to eat.

Specifically, levels of the hormone leptin, which signals satiety, were decreased across the 24 hours in the late eating condition compared to the early eating conditions. When participants ate later, they also burned calories at a slower rate and exhibited adipose tissue gene expression towards increased adipogenesis and decreased lipolysis, which promote fat growth. Notably, these findings convey converging physiological and molecular mechanisms underlying the correlation between late eating and increased obesity risk.

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