Eating Later in The Day Linked to Obesity

Researchers used three types of technology to track weight gain and meal times.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Although we all know that eating more can lead to weight gain, it turns out that when we eat may also play a role. Eating later in the day has been linked to obesity according to a new study.


This is not necessarily new information. Previous research has already found that that later timing of eating and sleeping are related to obesity. 

Assessing both meal and sleep timing

"However, few studies have assessed both meal and sleep timing in adults with obesity, and it is not clear whether eating later in the day is associated with shorter sleep duration or higher body fat," said lead author Adnin Zaman, M.D., of the University of Colorado in Denver. Colo.

The study tracked participants' sleep, physical activity and eating patterns using three types of technology for a week. The study included 31 overweight and obese adults, average age 36, ninety percent of whom were women. 

"It has been challenging to apply sleep and circadian science to medicine due to a lack of methods for measuring daily patterns of human behavior," Zaman said. "We used a novel set of methods for simultaneous measurement of daily sleep, physical activity, and meal timing patterns that could be used to identify persons at risk for increased weight gain."


The study made use of an activPAL, an Actiwatch, and a phone app called MealLogger. The first was an electronic device put on the thighs of participants that measured how much time they spent in physical or sedentary activities.

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The second assessed sleep and wake patterns and the third was used to time stamp all meals throughout the day. In the end, the researchers found that later meal timing was linked with a higher body mass index as well as greater body fat.

Eating later in the day

"We used a novel set of methods to show that individuals with overweight or obesity may be eating later into the day," Zaman said. "These findings support our overall study, which will look at whether restricting the eating window to earlier on in the day will lower obesity risk."

"Given that wearable activity monitors and smartphones are now ubiquitous in our modern society, it may soon be possible to consider the timing of behaviors across 24 hours in how we approach the prevention and treatment of obesity," Zaman said.

The new study was presented at ENDO 2019, the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in New Orleans, La.

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