For years, we’ve been burdened by science. Once we learnt that our metabolisms are supposedly slowing down at night from our circadian rhythms (also known as your body clock), we started to feel guilty as soon as the clock passed eight. Not only do we feel bad for putting food into our bodies at night (because we all want that bikini body all year round), but we feel even worse when our kids eat late too.
But what about those of you who work late? How can you even consider eating or feeding your kids earlier when you’re out earning a living? Take a breath, slow down, and cheer up, because the connection between eating late and weight gain is no longer a fact.
A group of researchers at King’s College London in the U.K., led by Dr. Gerda Pot, sorted 1,620 kids into two groups (those aged 4 to 10 and those aged 11 to 18) and got each kid to record how much they ate, what they ate and when they ate throughout four days. The children were also measured and weighed to have their BMIs assessed in relation to their food diaries.
“We expected to find an association between eating later and being more likely to be overweight but actually found that this was not the case,” said Dr. Pot. Eating dinner after 8 p.m. had no real connection to a child’s BMI in the experiment. In fact, kids that ate dinner between 8 and 10 p.m. were no more overweight or obese than those who ate between 2 and 8 p.m.
In a news release, Dr. Pot explained that “alongside changes in dietary quality and levels of physical activity, meal timing is one of many possible factors that has been suggested as influencing the trends in weight gain seen in children.” And yet, his own statistical analysis of the kids in his experiment revealed that there really isn’t a connection between nighttime and meals.
It is, however, worth knowing that there were two complications of the study. The girls that were between 11 and 18 ate less carbohydrates when eating later than the girls who ate earlier. Also, the younger kids have a tough time conceptualizing portion sizes, making it difficult for the kids to realistically record how much was eaten at a given time. Dr. Pot was able to maneuver around the latter obstacle by tracking the older kids separately from the younger kids, which is why they were split into two different study groups.
This doesn’t mean you should go out, buy a couple tubs of ice cream and binge eat it all. You’re not immune to overeating. But the myth that eating a late dinner causes obesity and weight gain has officially been debunked.