Late meal diabetes risk?
July 6, 2007 5:43 AM   Subscribe

Is there any connection between eating meals close to bedtime and elevated risk of developing diabetes?

My wife has been convinced by Korean health TV shows that there's some kind of enormous increase in diabetes onset risk if you eat sooner than several hours before bedtime. I've searched like nuts for any research backup to this, to no avail. I am aware that there is increased diabetes risk for people of Asian descent (amongst other ethnicities), but I'm not in any of the high-risk groups, at least through descent. Any factual help?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
I'm gonna say no, because everything I've ever read about diet and nutrition says that it doesn't matter when your body takes its nutrients in. They are broken down the same way, no matter what your schedule.
posted by Miko at 6:04 AM on July 6, 2007

My completely non expert opinion, based on a reading of only slightly shady diet books (like "Ultrametabolism") is "Yes". This is because going to bed less than about 3 hours after a meal is correlated with weight gain due to a disrupted digestion process and being overweight is correlated with type 2 diabetes.
posted by rongorongo at 6:07 AM on July 6, 2007

No, but sleep loss could be... so if that meal causes you to lose sleep, perhaps.

Obesity is also obviously a risk factor for diabetes, and increased calorie consumption without sufficient physical activity over time may lead to obesity. This may be the logic these scientists are using, but I'm just guessing here. I suppose you're less likely to burn off immediately-available energy (simple sugars) if you go to bed soon after, so that may be more quickly converted and stored. Proteins and fats are more complex energy sources that require more metabolizing, and therefore may be less likely to "go straight to your hips". They'll also help you feel full longer, especially with a big glass of water--yoghurt is what I use for all-nighters when that awful hunger kicks in at about 3 am.

AANAD, nor studying to become one--I just work for a bunch of endocrinologists and diabetes/metabolism researchers. (Including the ones who wrote that paper.)
posted by rhoticity at 6:12 AM on July 6, 2007

It's like believing in Fan Death...

You should be eating at a regularly scheduled time everyday (if this is to be believed), but, it doesn't indicate if eating earlier or later makes a difference.

There's also this random blog post, that disagrees with rongorongo, which seems to indicate that it doesn't matter.
posted by yeoz at 6:13 AM on July 6, 2007

And what I've read in almost every source is that what rongorongo is saying is dieter's myth.

Go Ask Alice: Eating at Night = Weight Gain. Myth or Fact?

Emory Health Care: True or False: Eating at Night Will Make You Gain Weight

Science Daily: Scientists Dispel Late-Night Eating Weight-Gain Myth

Google Answers: Eating before sleep: Fact or Fiction?

Feel free to carry on searching, there's loads out there. IT's a very pervasive myth, but it's just that, a myth. People seem to get confounded because inadequate sleep correlates with weight gain, and so does night bingeing, but an appropriatel calorie intake has not been found to cause weight gain regardless of the time of day calories are ingested.
posted by Miko at 6:17 AM on July 6, 2007

The connection with obesity (then to diabetes) might be in that someone eating close to bedtime might tend to have irregular eating habits (like waiting too long after lunch, thus tending to be more hungry and eating more than otherwise).

Not to be easily dismissed, however, is that eating close to bedtime increases the likelihood of developing acid reflux and its unfortunate sequelae.
posted by troybob at 6:19 AM on July 6, 2007

The only thing that tweaked on my logicometer is the possibility that the diurnal cycle of body steroids might conceivably slow down the metabolic rate and in the realms of diabetes I guess there is the chance that the BSL might be slightly elevated for slightly longer with the nocte eating. I have not researched any of this however. It is the only way I could believe that any inference about food time and diabetes could be made. In other words, like most everyone here, I regard this all as a crock of....
posted by peacay at 6:44 AM on July 6, 2007

A tiny bit more on that thought.....I'd want to look at normal flux in glucocorticoid and minearlocorticoid levels versus BSL over a normal day with normal eating/sleeping patterns versus same in late night eaters. But even then, the only thing I could believe is that it would be a very slight increase in BSL, if at all, and it would not be prolonged in a non-diabetic person. As to whether this in itself would be in any way a stressor to bring on diabetes, I doubt it, but conceivably, if you are a borderline diabetic, there would be the possibility I suppose that the deleterious effects of prolonged increase in BSL could be very slightly potentiated. In other words, it becomes quite fierce biochem and endocrinology very fast.
posted by peacay at 6:55 AM on July 6, 2007

There was also related discussion here, which I interpreted as 'what Miko said'.
posted by MtDewd at 7:33 AM on July 6, 2007

I'm gonna say no, because everything I've ever read about diet and nutrition says that it doesn't matter when your body takes its nutrients in. They are broken down the same way, no matter what your schedule.

While food is broken down the same way, the way the body reacts to it can be widely vary depending on your health, age, time of day and exercise. I am not an expert, but from what I've read a big factor is insulin sensitivity. Which is high first thing in the morning and which you can increase through regular exercise and also fish oil/omega-3 supplementation. Insulin sensitivity can be either in your muscle cells or in your fat cells.

Here is a good interview with John Berardi on the subject of insulin: The Anabolic Power of Insulin
posted by Hates_ at 7:44 AM on July 6, 2007

Korean health TV shows

I was going to mention fan death, but I see someone already has. I think you need a few grains of salt to take this advice with.
posted by oaf at 7:48 AM on July 6, 2007

Hates_, it is a good policy to be very careful about believing health information from experts whose primary job is selling nutritional supplements. They usually will provide all the 'research' you need to convince you need the supplements.
posted by Miko at 7:49 AM on July 6, 2007

I always have heard this to be true, to an extent, with the example of the traditional Sumo wrestler's training schedule as an example for proof in practice: Life as a Professional Sumo Wrestler.

Rikishi are not normally allowed to eat breakfast and are expected to have a nap after a large lunch. The most common type of lunch served is the traditional "sumo meal" of chankonabe which consists of a simmering stew cooked at table which contains various fish, meat, and vegetables. It is usually eaten with rice and washed down with beer. This regimen of no breakfast followed by a large lunch helps rikishi put on weight so as to compete more effectively. A nap after lunch also assists in this process.
posted by i less than three nsima at 8:16 AM on July 6, 2007

Sumo is a longstanding tradition, but there's not really any reason to think their timing is why they gain weight.

More calories in than burned, averaged over time = weight gain.

Fewer calories in than burned, averaged over time =weight loss.

This is what dietary science overwhelmingly says.

Diabetes risk = no idea, I'd have to see some actual studies.
posted by Miko at 10:49 AM on July 6, 2007

Response by poster: I was going to mention fan death, but I see someone already has. I think you need a few grains of salt to take this advice with.

Yes, precisely why I asked here.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:19 PM on July 6, 2007

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