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Can late-night eating really damage your health?

Researchers have been working on this issue. Find out their answer...

Woman eating at night in bed
Do people who eat earlier in the day have a health advantage over late-night diners? A recent clinical study conducted by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania would certainly seem to suggest so1. For eight weeks, a group of volunteers were asked to finish dinner by 7pm and to eat nothing further till the next morning, while a second group were instructed to eat much later, finishing their meal at around 11pm. Both groups ate the same amount of food and slept for the same amount of time, between the same hours. At the end of the study period, the researchers observed various adverse health effects among the late eaters. This group had higher blood levels of glucose, insulin and cholesterol, implicated in type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disorders, they had gained weight, mainly as a result of greater metabolism of fats, and their sleep cycles were more disrupted.

This is hardly a surprise given recent research findings. Several studies had already shown that making the effort to eat earlier in the day helped prevent chronically harmful effects on health. This is undoubtedly due to the influence of biorhythms on our absorption of nutrients as well as the adverse effect of digestion on sleep. Advances in research now mean we can specifically address the following three questions:

What kind of meal should we eat in the evening?

We know that drowsiness is regulated by the brain neurotransmitter serotonin, production of which depends on blood concentrations of tryptophan2. A high-carb, low-protein meal is therefore the best choice for promoting maximum concentration of tryptophan3 and minimum concentration of tyrosine4, an amino acid involved in the synthesis of dopamine.

What is the best time to eat?

The earlier the better, according to the latest research5. Falling into a deep sleep requires a drop in body temperature. Digesting a heavy meal has the reverse effect, raising thermogenesis.

Are there any natural products that help digestion and promote sleep?

A number of supplements can help improve digestion in the evening and encourage sleepiness. They include L-Tryptophan for the reasons mentioned above 6,7, as well as extracts of hop, and valerian root, which can cut 15 minutes off the time it takes insomniacs to fall asleep 8 while improving the quality of sleep cycles9! These products are just three of the ingredients included in the highly popular and totally natural formulation created by Supersmart called Natural Sleep Formula.


References

  • Christina Hopkins, Madelyn Ruggieri et al. SLEEP 2017, the 31st Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC (APSS).
  • Arnulf I, Quintin P, et al. Mid-morning tryptophan depletion delays REM sleep onset in healthy subjects. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2002 Nov;27(5):843-51
  • Lyons PM, Truswell AS. Serotonin precursor influenced by type of carbohydrate meal in healthy adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 1988 Mar;47(3):433-9.
  • Moller SE. Carbohydrate/protein selection in a single meal correlated with plasma tryptophan and tyrosine ratios to neutral amino acids in fasting individuals. Physiol Behav. 1986;38(2):175-83.
  • Almoosawi, S., Vingeliene, S., Karagounis, L., & Pot, G. (2016). Chrono-nutrition: A review of current evidence from observational studies on global trends in time-of-day of energy intake and its association with obesity. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 75(4), 487-500. doi:10.1017/S0029665116000306
  • Hartmann E, Spinweber CL. Sleep induced by L-tryptophan. Effect of dosages within the normal dietary intake. J Nerv Ment Dis 1979;167:497-9.
  • Korner E, Bertha G, Flooh E, et al. Sleep-inducing effect of L-tryptophane. Eur Neurol 1986;25 Suppl 2:75-81.
  • Bent S, Padula A, Moore D, et al. Valerian for sleep: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med 2006;119:1005-12.
  • Fernández-San-Martín MI, Masa-Font R, Palacios-Soler L, et al. Effectiveness of Valerian on insomnia: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. Sleep Med. 2010 Jun;11:505-11.

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