In recent years there has been a growing interest in the way the timing of our food intake can affect metabolism and other physiological processes. Sensations of desire follow a strong daily rhythmic pattern and tend to be most intense later in the day. This phenomenon can influence the type and amount of food that we consume.
A study of Almost 1200 UK adults, being presented in this year’s European and International Conference on Obesity (ECOICO 2020), held on the internet this year, indicates there is a link between evening food consumption and overall nutrition.
It aimed to investigate the association of energy consumption during the day on total energy intake and nutritional quality. The group selected a set of 1177 adults aged 19-64 years from the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey, using data covering the years 2012-2017. The research, which began in 2008, gathers detailed information on the food intake, nutrient intake and nutritional status of the general UK population aged 18 months and over by canvassing a representative sample of approximately 1000 participants every year.
Subjects were grouped into quartiles (4 equal groups of 25 percent ) based on the percentage of their daily energy intake consumed after 6pm, from the lowest with below 31.4 percent, through to the highest whose evening consumption accounted for more than 48.6percent of their energy intake. Diet quality was assessed by scoring the food diaries kept by participants using the Nutrient Rich Food Index, which classifies and meals meals according to the ratio of important nutrients that they contain relative to their energy content.
Across the Entire sample group, eating throughout the evening provided an average of almost 40 percent (39.8%) of daily energy intake. The authors found that a substantial variation in overall energy consumption across the different quartiles, with people in the lowest quartile of day energy consumption consuming fewer calories in complete over the day than those in the other three quartiles.
Quality of diet also differed across the quartiles with participants who have the most significant proportion of their energy intake in the day having a significantly worse score over the Nutrient Rich Food Index than people in the remainder of the sample groups.
The writers state:”Our results suggest that consuming a lower proportion of energy intake in the evening may be associated with a lower daily energy intake, while consuming a greater proportion of energy intake in the evening may be associated with a lower diet quality score.”
They conclude:”Timing of energy intake may be an important modifiable behavior to consider in future nutritional interventions. Further analysis is now needed to examine whether the distribution of energy intake and/or the types of food consumed in the evening are associated with measures of body composition and cardiometabolic health.”