New research shows that eating when your body’s metabolism doesn’t want you to plays a role in weight gain. These findings are to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study specifically focused on how nighttime light affects when we desire to eat, which then in turn affects our body mass index. “Light at night is an environmental factor that may be contributing to the obesity epidemic in ways that people don’t expect,” said Randy Nelson, co-author of the study and professor of neuroscience and psychology at Ohio State. “Societal obesity is correlated with a number of factors including the extent of light exposure at night.” The scientists studied the effects of night time light by observing its affects on mice. “Although there were no differences in activity levels or daily consumption of food, the mice that lived with light at night were getting fatter than the others,” said Laura Fonken, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in neuroscience at Ohio State University. “Something about light at night was making the mice in our study want to eat at the wrong times to properly metabolize their food,” said Nelson. “When we restricted their food intake to times when they would normally eat, we didn’t see the weight gain,” Fonken said. “This further adds to the evidence that the timing of eating is critical to weight gain.” If these same results prove valid in humans, this study indicates that late night eating, as well as chronic exposure to night time lighting may contribute to obesity.