Evening Hours May Pose Higher Risk For Overeating, Especially When Under Stress, Study Finds

Source: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Summary: A new study evidence suggests that evening is a high-risk time for overeating, especially if you’re stressed and already prone to binge eating.

Eating late in the day is common and stress also can induce eating. A little is understood about how stress might affect hunger urges at later hours, especially among those with binge eating disorder (BED) who often overeat in the evenings. Previous research has shown that levels of a hunger hormone, ghrelin can rise in response to stress during the daytime. A new study done by the researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have found that “hunger hormone”- Ghrelin levels rise and “satiety (or fullness) hormone”- Leptin levels decrease in the evening. The findings also suggest that stress may increase ghrelin levels more in the evening, and the impact of hormones on appetite may be greater for people prone to binge eating (consumption of large quantities of food in a short period of time). The study findings were published in the journal International Journal of Obesity.

Binge Eating Disorder

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The research team recruited 32 overweight participants (19 men and 13 women), 18 to 50 years of age for the study. Half had previously been diagnosed with BED and 47% were African-American. Participants had body mass indices (BMI) ranging from 28 – 52 and were otherwise healthy. The study protocol required that each participant fast for 8 hours, then receive a liquid meal of 608 calories at either 9 a.m. or 4 p.m. Some 130 minutes after the meal, each participant then underwent a standard experimental stress test. After the stress test, stress levels spiked and there were overall higher levels of ghrelin in the evening. The research team finally,  found that time of day significantly impacted hunger levels, with greater baseline self-reported appetite in the evening compared with the morning.

Asst. Prof. Susan Carnell said, “The good news is that having this knowledge, people could take steps to reduce their risk of overeating by eating earlier in the day, or finding alternative ways to deal with stress.

More Information: Susan Carnell et al, “Morning and afternoon appetite and gut hormone responses to meal and stress challenges in obese individuals with and without binge eating disorder”, International Journal of Obesity (2017). DOI: 10.1038/ijo.2017.307

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