According to a Spanish study, eating about three hours later than normal during the weekend can alter the metabolism and lead to weight gain.
We know what “jet lag” is, and we know about its negative effects on sleep. According to researchers at the University of Barcelona, “eating jet lag” may also exist.
Their research, published in the journal Nutrients, focused on the lifestyle habits of more than 1100 people aged between 18 and 22 from Spain and Mexico. They took into account physical activity levels, diet and sleep habits.
Previous studies have demonstrated that the circadian rhythm, independently of actual sleep patterns, is linked with dietary habits. In this sense, calories are not processed in the same way by the body when they are ingested at different times of the day.
This research brings new elements into consideration, however, as it analyzed differences in the timing of meals over the weekend. The researchers studied the relationship between the participants' body mass index (BMI) and the variability of their mealtimes over the weekend as compared to other days of the week.
Increased risk after 3.5 hours
The analysis indicated that having irregular meal times over the weekend is linked to significant increases in BMI. "This difference is related to our biological clock, which organizes our body to understand and metabolize calories consumed during the day. At night, however, it gets the body ready for fasting while we sleep,” stated Maria Izquierdo-Pulido, a researcher at the Department of Nutrition, Food Sciences, and Gastronomy at the University of Barcelona and co-author of the study.
"Our results show changing the timing of the three meals during the weekend is linked to obesity. The highest impact on the BDI could occur when there is a 3.5-hour difference in eating schedules. After this, the risk of obesity could increase,” added María Fernanda Zerón Rugerio, principal author of the study.
While further study is needed to determine more precisely the physiological mechanisms and metabolic alterations caused by irregular schedules and their link to obesity, the scientists underlined the importance of maintaining regular sleep and eating schedules to maintain health.
"Apart from diet and physical exercise, which are two pillars regarding obesity, another factor to be considered is regular eating schedules, since we proved it has an impact on our body weight," concluded Izquierdo-Pulido.