A Healthy Diet: The Close Relationship between What You Eat and When You Eat It

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    Maintaining a healthy diet is directly related to the times that people consume most of their food. This is indicated by research that was presented at the European and International Conference on Obesity.

    This study found that people who consume most of their calories at night tend to consume more and have a lower quality diet. Precisely, the objective of this study was to explore the connection between the consumption of calories at night, the measure of energy intake (EI) and the quality of the diet.

    Previous studies found that hunger follows a daily rhythm and that this rhythm, somehow, is not what people think. Although people often stop eating during a prolonged period of sleep, they break that fast with what is usually the smallest meal of the day. By contrast, hunger tends to be strongest later in the day, peaking around 8 p.m., after most people have completed most of their daily activities.

    EI consumption naturally tends to be a response to hunger, and other research has delved into the effect of meal timing on metabolism and other bodily processes. This new study, however, looked at its implications for the quantity and quality of food people eat.


    Starting in 2008, the UK’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) collected detailed information on food consumption, nutrient intake and nutritional status for people aged 18 months and older. Thus, each year, the survey collected responses from a representative sample of 1,000 people. In this way, the researchers analyzed data from 1,177 adults who participated in the survey from 2012 to 2017.

    Overall, the researchers found that the participants consumed, on average, almost 40% (39.8%) of their energy intake after 6 pm. However, looking at the data more closely, the researchers divided people according to the proportion of their daily EI that they consumed after 6 pm. Thus, people in the lowest quartile consumed less than 31.4% of their EI at night, while those in the highest quartile ate more than 48.6% during the night hours.

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