Myth or fact? Does eating late lead to a fat belly?

Eat late, gain weight? This myth has been around for years, and although some people could swear that their late-night eating habits do make them gain weight, recent research has shown that your body doesn’t process food differently at different times of the day. The total amount of calories that you take in, and how much you exercise during the day, are what affect your weight.

However, many people do tend to overeat and choose high-calorie foods as snacks at night, both of which will cause weight gain.

Evidence Against the Health Claim

A study by scientists at Oregon Health and Science University examined the eating habits and weight-gain patterns of rhesus monkeys, which they considered to be a useful model for studying human obesity. The study found that the monkeys who ate most of their food at night were at no greater risk for gaining weight than those who chose to eat earlier in the day.

Such evidence supports the claims of many health professionals and organizations, including the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), that it’s the amount of calories you take in, not the time of day you consume them, that affects the amount of weight gained or lost.

Under normal circumstances weight fluctuates over weeks and months—not hours—due to long-term patterns of eating and exercise. Although your metabolism does slow down at night, you are still using energy for basic bodily functions, and thus are still burning calories when you sleep. And many people are also quite sedentary during the day.

Your body will not store more fat after eating the same meal at 9:00 pm as opposed to 6:00 pm—the calorie intake is the same. If you overeat, your body will store the extra calories as fat no matter what time you consume them.


By Afia Owusu/|Ghana

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