Night time eating can contribute to development of diabetes, new research suggests

by Barbara Hewitt on November 9, 2017

Snacking and eating frequently at night could be a contributory factor in the development of diabetes and to heart disease, new research has found.

While the odd midnight snack may be okay, people working night shifts or who habitually stay up late and eat regularly late at night could be storing up problems for their future health, according to scientists.

Eating Bed

(Photographee.eu/Shutterstock.com)

Eating at night disrupts the body’s biological clock as it causes triglycerides levels in the blood to spike at a time when the body should be sleeping, according to the research by a team at the National Autonomous University in Mexico.

Triglycerides are blood fats produced in the liver and derived from foods such as meat, dairy products and cooking oils. They are different from cholesterol but can also clog arteries, leading to cardiovascular disease, or inflame the pancreas, triggering diabetes.

The researchers carried out a study in rats and found that when they ate at bedtime the amount of fat in their blood increased drastically but when they were fed during their daytime the amount of fat was not as high.

‘The fact that we can ignore our biological clock is important for survival. We can decide to sleep during the day when we are extremely tired or we run away from danger at night,’ said lead study author Ruud Buijs.

‘However, doing this frequently, with shift work, jet lag, or staying up late at night, will harm our health in the long term especially when we eat at times when we should sleep,’ he added.

Buijs explained that energy metabolism follows a daily, or ‘diurnal’ pattern, mainly driven by the Suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), a tiny region of the brain that regulates the body clock and disruption of circadian regulation has been previously linked to metabolic abnormalities.

‘These findings show the SCN has a major role in day-night variations in plasma triglycerides by promoting their uptake into skeletal muscle and brown adipose tissue. Consequently, disturbance of the biological clock might be an important risk factor contributing to the development of hyperlipidaemia (high blood fats),’ he pointed out.

He also pointed out that epidemiological studies show that night shift workers, who have activity and meal patterns at night, have an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases.

‘This day-night variation in triglyceride metabolism provides a possible explanation for the increased risk of cardiovascular diseases seen in night workers who have shifted meal patterns towards the night,’ he added.

‘Since triglyceride levels are an important factor in the progress of blood clots, these results may have potential implications for the cause of cardiovascular diseases in the context of inadequate feeding times, shifted towards the rest phase, that commonly occur in westernized countries such as late night dinners and in night workers,’ he concluded.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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