A study published in the most recent version of the journal Obesity found that the body’s internal clock, the circadian system, increases hunger and cravings for sweet, starchy and salty foods in the evenings. While the urge to consume more in the evening may have helped our ancestors store energy to survive longer in times of food scarcity, in the current environment of high-calorie food, those late night snacks may result in significant weight gain.
“Of course, there are many factors that affect weight gain, principally diet and exercise, but the time of eating also has an effect. We found with this study that the internal circadian system also likely plays a role in today’s obesity epidemic because it intensifies hunger at night,” said Steven Shea, Ph.D., director for the Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology at Oregon Health & Science University and senior author on the study. “People who eat a lot in the evening, especially high-calorie foods and beverages, are more likely to be overweight or obese.”