Evening hours may pose higher risk for overeating, especially when under stress, study finds

January 16, 2018, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Experiments with a small group of overweight men and women have added to evidence that "hunger hormone" levels rise and "satiety (or fullness) hormone" levels decrease in the evening. The findings also suggest that stress may increase hunger hormone levels more in the evening, and the impact of hormones on appetite may be greater for people prone to binge eating.

The findings were described in a report published Dec. 13 in the International Journal of Obesity, and highlight opportunities for people to modify behaviors to preempt overeating.

"Our findings suggest that is a high-risk time for overeating, especially if you're stressed and already prone to binge eating," says Susan Carnell, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and the new study's first author. "The good news is that having this knowledge, people could take steps to reduce their risk of overeating by eating earlier in the day, or finding alternative ways to deal with stress," she adds.

Carnell, who also conducts research within Johns Hopkins Children's Center, notes that previous research has shown that levels of ghrelin, a hunger hormone, can rise in response to stress during the daytime. Curious how stress might affect hunger urges at later hours, especially among those with binge eating disorder who often overeat in the evenings, the researchers created an experiment to measure participants' hunger and stress hormones at different times.

For the study, the research team recruited 32 overweight participants (19 men and 13 women), 18 to 50 years of age. Half had previously been diagnosed with binge eating disorder, and 47 percent were African-American. Participants had body mass indices (BMI) ranging from 28 to 52 and were otherwise healthy.

The study protocol required that each participant fast for eight hours, then receive a liquid meal of 608 calories at either 9 a.m. or 4 p.m. Some 130 minutes after the meal, each participant then underwent a standard experimental in which a digital camera recorded their facial expressions while their nondominant hand was submerged in a bucket of cold water for two minutes.

Researchers drew blood from each participant to measure stress and hunger hormones. The subjects were also asked to rate their subjective levels of hunger and fullness on a numeric scale.

Thirty minutes after the start of the stress test, participants were offered a buffet that consisted of three medium pizzas, individual containers of snack chips, cookies and chocolate covered candies, and water.

The research team found that time of day significantly impacted hunger levels, with greater baseline self-reported appetite in the evening compared with the morning.

The team also saw relatively decreased levels of peptide YY, a hormone linked to reduced appetite, glucose and insulin levels, in relation to a liquid meal later in the day.

Carnell says only those with binge eating disorder showed lower overall fullness in the evening. This group also had higher initial levels of ghrelin in the evening and lower initial ghrelin levels in the morning, when compared with those without binge eating disorder.

After the stress test, stress levels spiked and hunger levels rose slowly in all participants in both the morning and evening, but there were overall higher levels of ghrelin in the evening, suggesting that may impact this more in the evening than in daytime.

Explore further: Are you eating for the wrong reasons?

More information: S Carnell et al. Morning and afternoon appetite and gut hormone responses to meal and stress challenges in obese individuals with and without binge eating disorder, International Journal of Obesity (2017). DOI: 10.1038/ijo.2017.307

Related Stories

Are you eating for the wrong reasons?

July 28, 2017
(HealthDay)—You don't have to have an eating disorder, like binge eating, to have an overeating habit.

Seven ways to feel full without overeating

October 22, 2014
Not feeling full after or between meals can result in overeating. In the October issue of Food Technology magazine published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), contributing editor Linda Milo Ohr writes about studies ...

You're only as full as you expect to be

September 7, 2017
(HealthDay)—How filling you think a meal will be can affect how much you eat later, a small study found.

Study shows exercise does curb your hunger

March 8, 2016
Scientists at Loughborough University have found exercising is more effective than food restriction in helping limit daily calorie consumption.

Greater production of 'feeling full' hormone could be responsible for weight loss

August 5, 2016
A preliminary study might hold the key to why over-80s are prone to losing weight.

Does exercise help or hinder your diet?

April 13, 2016
(HealthDay)—Dieters sometimes worry that workouts could make them hungry, but new research indicates exercise has the opposite effect, diminishing the appetite—at least temporarily.

Recommended for you

Study finds behavioral changes insufficient at preventing early childhood obesity

August 7, 2018
Young children and their families in poor communities were able to make some achievable and sustainable behavioral changes during the longest and largest obesity prevention intervention, but, in the end, the results were ...

Responsive parenting intervention results in lower BMIs through age three

August 7, 2018
An intervention designed to promote healthy growth, which taught first-time moms how to respond with age-appropriate responses to their babies' needs, resulted in children having lower body mass indexes (BMIs) when they were ...

Measure of belly fat in older adults is linked with cognitive impairment

August 1, 2018
A new study using data from over 5,000 individuals has found that a measure of belly fat (waist:hip ratio) was associated with reduced cognitive function in older Irish adults (>60 years of age). These findings have significant ...

How can you avoid regaining those lost kilos?

July 23, 2018
The hardest part about losing weight is maintaining it. Many people manage to lose weight, but in time the kilos can slowly come back.

Food for thought: How the brain reacts to food may be linked to overeating

July 19, 2018
The reason why some people find it so hard to resist finishing an entire bag of chips or bowl of candy may lie with how their brain responds to food rewards, leaving them more vulnerable to overeating.

Children are less likely to be obese if mothers stick to a healthy lifestyle

July 4, 2018
Children of mothers who follow a healthy lifestyle have a substantially lower risk of developing obesity than children of mothers who don't make healthy lifestyle choices, finds a study published in The BMJ.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.