Eating healthily and losing weight can be difficult tasks for anyone, but a new study shows that when you choose to go to bed and wake up can make a big difference.
Researchers from The Obesity Society (TOS) have found that consumers who wake up early and go to bed at a decent hour are more likely to have a balanced diet than those who stay up later. It is the first study of its kind to investigate what and when people with different internal clocks eat.
TOS spokesperson Dr. Courtney Peterson explains that early birds have an advantage over night owls when it comes to fighting obesity because they instinctively choose to eat healthier foods earlier in the day. She states that factors such as metabolism and our biological clocks play a big part in weight loss.
“Previous studies have shown that eating earlier in the day may help with weight loss and lower the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. What this new study shows is that our biological clocks not only affect our metabolism but also what we choose to eat,” she said.
Early birds vs. night owls
The study analyzed data from 2,000 randomly chosen participants and looked at how their circadian and biological clock rhythm affected what they chose to eat and at what time they were most likely to eat.
The findings suggested that early birds are more likely than night owls to eat high-energy, healthy foods throughout the day. On the other hand, night owls were found to consume less protein and more sucrose and saturated fatty acids. These differences were even more pronounced on weekends, with night owls eating more often and at more irregular times. The researchers found that night owls also tended to be less physically active and have lower quality sleep.
“Linking what and when people eat to their biological clock type provides a fresh perspective on why certain people are more likely to make unhealthy food decisions,” said lead researcher Mirkka Maukonen. “This study shows that evening type people have less favorable eating habits, which may put them at a higher risk for obesity, diabetes and heart disease.”
Weight loss implications
While the health implications are striking, the researchers believe that the findings could be particularly important to consumers who are seeking to lose weight. They say that health care providers could help consumers by directing them towards healthier options and specific meal times.
“Clinicians can help steer people to healthier options — and suggest the optimal time to eat these foods — based on what we now know about our biological clocks,” said Peterson.