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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2013 Jan 15;304(2):R94-R101. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00115.2012. Epub 2012 Nov 21.

Nighttime snacking reduces whole body fat oxidation and increases LDL cholesterol in healthy young women.

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Health Care Food Research Laboratories, Kao Corporation, Bunka, Sumida-ku, Tokyo, Japan.


The increase in obesity and lipid disorders in industrialized countries may be due to irregular eating patterns. Few studies have investigated the effects of nighttime snacking on energy metabolism. We examined the effects of nighttime snacking for 13 days on energy metabolism. Eleven healthy women (means ± SD; age: 23 ± 1 yr; body mass index: 20.6 ± 2.6 kg/m(2)) participated in this randomized crossover trial for a 13-day intervention period. Subjects consumed a specified snack (192.4 ± 18.3 kcal) either during the daytime (10:00) or the night time (23:00) for 13 days. On day 14, energy metabolism was measured in a respiratory chamber without snack consumption. An oral glucose tolerance test was performed on day 15. Relative to daytime snacking, nighttime snacking significantly decreased fat oxidation (daytime snacking: 52.0 ± 13.6 g/day; nighttime snacking: 45.8 ± 14.0 g/day; P = 0.02) and tended to increase the respiratory quotient (daytime snacking: 0.878 ± 0.022; nighttime snacking: 0.888 ± 0.021; P = 0.09). The frequency of snack intake and energy intake, body weight, and energy expenditure were not affected. Total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol significantly increased after nighttime snacking (152 ± 26 mg/dl and 161 ± 29 mg/dl; P = 0.03 and 76 ± 20 mg/dl and 83 ± 24 mg/dl; P = 0.01, respectively), but glucose and insulin levels after the glucose load were not affected. Nighttime snacking increased total and LDL cholesterol and reduced fat oxidation, suggesting that eating at night changes fat metabolism and increases the risk of obesity.

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