-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
MONDAY, May 9 (HealthDay News) -- Night owls who consistently
stay up late may be putting themselves at higher odds for weight
gain, a new study finds.
Researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago found that
people who burn the midnight oil typically consume more calories in
the evening and eat more fast food than "early to bed, early to
The study, published online in the journal
Obesity, examined 51 people averaging 30 years of age. Twenty-three typically went to bed by about 3:45 a.m. and woke up by 10:45 a.m. The rest, considered normal sleepers, were in bed by 12:30 a.m. and up by 8 a.m.
The researchers found that people who stayed up late consumed an
average 248 more calories daily. The diet of the night owls also
included twice as much fast food, more non-diet sodas and only half
as many fruits and vegetables as those with earlier sleep times.
These extra calories were typically consumed at dinner and later in
the evening. The study also found that those who regularly stayed
up late had a higher body mass index than normal sleepers.
"The extra daily calories can mean a significant amount of weight gain -- two pounds per month -- if they are not balanced by more physical activity," the study's co-lead author, Kelly Glazer Baron, a health psychologist and a neurology instructor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a university news release.
The researchers suggest the reason behind the weight gain may be
that healthier foods are not readily available at night, or that
night owls tend to prefer foods that are higher in calories. The
study concludes that eating habits are linked to sleeping patterns,
and that when you eat may be just as important as what you eat.
"Human circadian rhythms in sleep and metabolism are synchronized to the daily rotation of the earth, so that when the sun goes down you are supposed to be sleeping, not eating," the study's senior author Dr. Phyllis Zee, professor of neurology and director of the Sleep and Circadian Rhythms Research Program at Feinberg and medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Feinberg and Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said in the news release. "When sleep and eating are not aligned with the body's internal clock, it can lead to changes in appetite and metabolism, which could lead to weight gain."
The study's authors also pointed out that people who eat
unhealthy foods at the wrong time of day may increase their risk of
stroke, heart disease and gastrointestinal disorders.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers
detailed information about the causes and dangers associated with
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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