For the majority of us, what we allow into our mouths matters a great deal to us. We don’t want to gain unwieldy weight, we don’t want to experience heart diseases…. All these reasons are good and genuine.
But then, experts are saying that beyond what you eat, when you eat is also of the essence. Researchers at San Diego State University and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies warn that if you’re looking to improve your heart health by changing your diet, when you eat may be just as important as what you eat.
They note that people who tend to eat later in the day and into the night have a higher chance of developing heart disease than people who cut off their food consumption earlier. They counsel that you could reduce your risk for obesity, metabolic diseases and type-2 diabetes if you eat good diet at the right time!
Scientists say that eating late at night is associated with increased body mass index, a disruption in circadian rhythm, increase in a person’s risk for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
“These findings show that our circadian rhythms play a role in energy metabolism, weight regulation and overall health,” the scientists enthuse.
Granted that the modern life is a hectic one, it’s no reason for you to go to bed less than three hours after taking your dinner. The situation becomes a source of concern when you consider that in our culture, dinner is usually heavy, what with stuffs like eba, semovita, pounded yam, akpu, tuwo or amala served generously with beef, chicken or fish.
Nutritionists say a healthy young person who is very much under the age of 40 could get away with such a pastime; however, the same could not be said for people who are 40 and over. This is because among the youth, metabolism is faster, but among the ageing, it takes a longer time for the body to process foods before getting rid of the unwanted matters.
Nutritionist, Mr. Remi Omotunde, warns that there are many health challenges that could result from eating late night dinners, suggesting that fixing earlier time for dinner might just be the panacea you need.
Nutrition expert, Adele Davis, gave her well-known advice to “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.” Omotunde says this becomes necessary because when people eat at night, it usually has little to do with quelling hunger pangs. Rather, he notes, it may be a way of coping with emotional issues such as stress or anxiety.
“That’s why when people eat snacks after the regular dinner, they overdo it. It’s worse when people are snacking and watching TV at the same time. They simply don’t have an idea of how much they’ve eaten.
“It’s of utmost concern when you realise that most snacks are high-calorie foods such as chips, cookies, sweets, chocolates, French fries, etc. – all of which are high in calories, fat, sodium or sugar. All these foods can slow down digestion.
“And because tiredness is likely to follow a period of bingeing; plus, you’re already fatigued due to your activities during the day, the next port of call is most likely the bed. It’s a dangerous pastime, if you ask me,” Omotunde says.
Fluctuations in sleep cycle
Those who eat late at night may experience episodes of sleeplessness, Omotunde warns.
He notes that large and spicy meals could result in abdominal discomfort by sending you to the bathroom at odd hours.
Needless to say, we all know that heartburn is unpleasant. General Practitioner, Dr. Gideon Oludare, says in particular, fatty foods, large portions, and late-night meals are the top three triggers that may give people heartburn.
He asserts that the heartburn is especially common after eating a large meal. “Too much food stretches the stomach, causing you to feel stuffed. When your stomach overstretches because of overeating, it puts pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter – the muscle that keeps stomach acids from moving in the wrong direction.”
Oludare counsels that after eating, you should stay upright, probably by walking around while you discuss with family or watch your favourite TV programme for the next 30 minutes on the minimum.
“This is because gravity helps keep the contents in the stomach; but if you lie down immediately after your meal, it might result in acid reflux, whereby acid spills out of the stomach, resulting in heartburn and other unpleasant experiences,” the physician says.
The way out
Experts at the online portal, intelihealth.com, admonishes people to eat a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet, while avoiding high-calorie snacks in the evening.
They urge people to exercise regularly, which means at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (brisk walking) five days a week, combined with muscle strengthening exercise at least twice a week.
They also advise people to try and get at least eight hours of sleep every night.