Study finds what you eat is linked to when you eat


EATING in the evening is associated with a higher intake of calories, as well as lower quality food, according to a new study.
Maintaining a healthful diet is associated with how late in the day people consume most of their food, according to research presented at the European and International Conference on Obesity (ECOICO 2020).
The study found that people who consume most of their calories in the evening tend to consume more of them and have a lower quality diet.
The study’s aim was to explore the connection between the evening consumption of calories — the measure of energy intake (EI) — and diet quality. Judith Baird, a researcher from the Nutrition Innovation Centre for Food and Health at Ulster University in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, led the study.
Previous studies have found that hunger follows a daily rhythm and that this rhythm is, in some ways, not what people might expect. Although people typically cease eating during an extended period of sleep, they break that fast with what is often the smallest meal of the day.
Meanwhile, hunger tends to be strongest late in the day, peaking at about 8:00 p.m., after most people have completed the majority of their daily activities.
EI consumption naturally tends to be a response to hunger, and other research has investigated the effect of meal timing on metabolism and other bodily processes. The new study, however, looks at its implications for the quantity and quality of food that people consume.
Beginning in 2008, the U.K.’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) captured detailed information regarding food consumption, nutrient intake, and nutritional status for individuals over the age of 18 months. Each year, the survey collected responses from a representative sample of 1,000 people. Baird and her colleagues analyzed data from 1,177 adults who participated in the survey from 2012 through 2017.
Overall, the researchers found that the participants were, on average, consuming nearly 40% (39.8%) of their daily EI after 6:00 p.m.
Looking at the data more closely, the researchers divided people into quartiles according to the proportion of their daily EI that they consumed after 6:00 p.m. The people in the lowest quartile consumed less than 31.4% of their EI in the evening, while those in the highest quartile ate more than 48.6% during evening hours.


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