When should we eat dinner?
Recent research highlights that the timing of our meals, particularly the last meal of the day, can significantly affect our health. The story is not merely about what we consume, but also about when we do so. The debate about dinner timing finds substantial scientific backing with a Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) study published in Cell Metabolism in October 2022, suggesting that early dinners could have more health benefits than previously believed.
The science of early dinners
Senior author of the study, Dr Frank A. J. L. Scheer, Director of the Medical Chronobiology Programme in BWH’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, explained the study’s objective in a press release: “We wanted to test the mechanisms that may explain why late eating increases obesity risk.”
The study defined an early dinner as a meal consumed three to four hours before bedtime, aligning with our body’s circadian rhythm. This time management allows the body to efficiently digest food, process nutrients, and smoothly transition into a fasting mode during sleep, facilitating essential restorative processes (and arguably better sleep, according to some experts).
If you’re still feeling bloated after consuming dinner three to four hours before you go to bed, try these bedtime fixes to help reduce belly bloat.
The benefits of an early-bird dinner
The BWH study discovered stark differences in metabolic profiles of early and late diners. Early diners demonstrated lower blood glucose levels, improved fat-burning capacity, better sleep quality, and higher energy levels. Meanwhile, late dinners led to increased hunger, slower calorie burning, and elevated fat storage, posing risks for conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Further reinforcing these findings, a study published in Obesity Reviews examined the effects of energy intake distribution on weight loss. This systematic review evaluated nine randomised controlled trials and concluded that focusing on earlier energy intake resulted in significantly greater short-term weight loss. Alongside weight loss, improvements were observed in insulin resistance, fasting glucose and LDL cholesterol levels.