Late Night Munchies Bad For Your Heart And Weight

Late Night Munchies Bad For Your Heart And Weight
Eating late at night and close to bedtime can lead to hypertension and weight gain. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Eating is a natural process to regain the body's lost energy and store nutrients. However, it can also be a source of health risks when done at the most inappropriate time such as before bedtime.

Eating before hitting the sack at night has its equivalent ups and downs. On the good side, it rids of hunger or night cravings, and you go to sleep happy and satisfied.

However, the bad side outweighs the good. For starters, eating close to bedtime can result in the acid reflux called Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This happens when the acid from the stomach reaches the esophagus. This specifically happens when heavier foods are eaten since the stomach takes a few hours to digest a big meal.

Niket Sonpal, a New York City-based gastroenterologist and professor of clinical medicine at Touro College, adds that eating a full meal close to bedtime can also lead to heart problems. Research presented at this year's American Heart Association's Scientific Session revealed the correlation between heart disease and eating way past 6 p.m. Those who have a heavy meal after 6 p.m. have higher blood sugar and insulin levels and higher blood pressure, which could lead to prediabetes and cardiovascular problems.

Nour Makarem, a postdoctoral fellow in cardiology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, says that eating late at night disrupts the body's circadian system. This could then lead to hypertension and heart disease.

Aside from its heart-related risks, late night munchies could cause weight gain. According to Kelly Allison of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine's Center for Weight and Eating Disorders, eating after dinner or outside the person's sleep/wake cycle slows down metabolism. This could in turn result to the body storing those calories as fat instead of burning them for energy.

"The studies suggest that eating out of our normal rhythm, like late at night, may prompt weight gain and higher levels of blood sugar, which can raise the risk of chronic disease."

Eating late at night also makes you hungrier in the 24 hours after your evening meal. The hormone ghrelin, which controls your hunger pangs, resets itself the following day. This prompts you to eat more calories, which could lead to weight gain.

However, Sonpal says that it is more of what you eat than when you eat. She suggests consuming foods that have few calories to help regulate blood sugar levels such as fresh fruit, nuts, or lean protein.

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