Delayed Timing of Eating: Impact on Weight and Metabolism
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Animal studies of delayed eating have provided useful information regarding the potential relationship between nighttime eating and increased weight and metabolic dysregulation, which occur in the absence of increased locomotion or increased caloric intake. We first review recent studies detailing these relationships and possible mechanisms in rodents. We then examine human data showing that sleep restriction leads to increased energy intake and weight gain, followed by a review of the human phenotype of delayed eating, night eating syndrome, and its relation to weight and metabolism. Finally, we examine human experimental studies of delayed eating and discuss preliminary data that show slight weight gain, dysfunction in energy expenditure, and abnormalities in the circadian rhythms of appetitive, stress, and sleep hormones. Well-controlled, longer-term experimental studies in humans are warranted to test the effect of delayed eating without sleep restriction to clarify whether limiting or eliminating nighttime eating could lead to weight loss and significantly improve related disorders, such as diabetes and heart disease, over time.