Eating after 8 pm may not cause children to gain excess weight, claims a new study by researchers at King’s College London. Previous evidence suggested that the timing of food intake can have a significant impact on circadian rhythms (i.e. the body’s internal daily clock) and therefore on metabolic processes within the body, potentially leading to an increased risk of being overweight or obese.
‘The timing of food intake can have a significant effect on the metabolic processes within the body, leading to weight gain.’
However, the evidence from studies in children is limited so King’s researchers set out to establish whether the timing of children’s evening meals was associated with obesity.
Countering popular belief among fitness enthusiasts, a team of researchers recently reported that eating after 8pm does not lead to a greater weight gain among children.
Researchers at King’s College London researchers examined the eating habits of 1,620 children, 768 children aged 4-10 years and 852 children aged 11-18 years, using data from the UK’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey Rolling Programme collected between 2008 and 2012.
This national survey gathered information annually from food diaries, in which children or their parents recorded their dietary intake and meal timings over a four-day period. The survey also collected measurements of weight and height which were used to calculate the BMI of the children.
Statistical analysis of the data showed no greater risk of being obese or overweight when eating dinner between 8 pm and 10 pm compared to eating between 2 pm and 8 pm for either of the age groups studied.
The lead author of the study, Dr Gerda Pot, is a Visiting Lecturer in the Diabetes and Nutritional Sciences Division and is also based at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. She said: ”The findings of our study are surprising. We expected to find an association between eating later and being more likely to be overweight but actually found that this was not the case. This may be due to the limited number of children consuming their evening meal after 8 pm in this cohort.”
The study also did not find any significant differences in the mean daily energy intakes for those eating their dinner before 8pm compared with those who ate dinner later and only a small number of statistically significant variations in daily nutrient intakes.
The new findings suggest there is currently insufficient evidence to support expanding dietary recommendations to include advice on when as well as what children eat. However, childhood obesity is a major public health issue and current advice is to improve dietary quality and increase physical activity to reduce the risk of becoming overweight and help to reverse excess weight gain. More research is needed to investigate the influence of the timing of eating on childhood obesity.
However, childhood obesity is a major public health issue and current advice is to improve dietary quality and increase physical activity to reduce the risk of becoming overweight and help to reverse excess weight gain. More research is needed to investigate the influence of the timing of eating on childhood obesity.
The study is published in the British Journal of Nutrition.