Late-night cravings are an almost universal experience. Whether it’s a quick bowl of cereal or reheated leftovers, most of us are more than a little familiar with the allure of a midnight bite.
But, is there a reason people gravitate toward sweeter snacks after sundown?
Research shared at the annual European and International Conference on Obesity says maybe. A recent study discovered that individuals who eat the majority of their calories in the evening tend to consume more and have a lower-quality diet.
Previous research indicates that hunger tends to reach its peak after people are winding down, often around 8 p.m. Hunger typically follows a daily cycle and increases in the evening.
In this particular study, researchers analyzed the food habits and nutrient intake of more than a thousand people throughout the United Kingdom from 2012 to 2017. According to the results, participants typically ate almost 40% of their daily energy intake after 6 p.m.
Those who ate more of their calories in the evening were inclined to consume foods low in nutritional quality, evaluated based on the rankings reported in the Nutrient-Rich Food Index. The index assesses food by looking at the ratio of calories to vital nutrients. Participant food intake was reported in food diaries given to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey.
By contrast, those who ate most of their energy intake earlier in the day consumed fewer calories as the day went on.
The study is one step closer to understanding the relationship between hunger rhythms and what, and when, we consume to satisfy them. In the future, examining the timing of food intake may be just as vital as evaluating the type of food itself.