7 dangers if you snack at night

Who has never been concerned with nighttime cravings? Whether it's lying in front of the television or from the back of your bed ... many of you have already fallen for a snack during the night. 

7 dangers if you snack at night
7 dangers if you snack at night

Be careful, this bad habit is not without risk for your health. We take stock with Raphaël Gruman and Alexandra Region, nutritionists.
When the sandman is wanted, it sometimes happens that we let ourselves be tempted by everything in our fridge. Be careful, this is not a good habit to take.

"Eating at night, first of all, involves the disruption of the appetite hormones ghrelin and leptin", warns Raphaël Gruman, nutritionist and author of I treat myself with macronutrients (ed. Leduc.s). In fact, to resist overnight fasting, the body produces leptin, the satiety hormone. During the day, to keep us awake, the metabolism secretes ghrelin, the hormone that promotes hunger.

Between midnight and 5 in the morning, we should never eat.

That's what I always tell my patients, especially those who work at night, explains the dietician nutritionist Alexandra Region, author of SOS. Nutrition (First ed.) Our bodies are not designed to be fueled at night.

Besides weight gain, nighttime snacking can compromise your health in other ways. Sleep disorders, digestive discomfort, diabetes, concentration problems… The inconveniences to which you expose yourself the next day or in the longer term are numerous. We review them.

Weight gain: during sleep, sugar and fatty acids go to adipocytes
Several scientific studies have already shown that mealtimes are just as crucial as the content of your plates if you want to watch your weight.

Teams of researchers from King's College London and the universities of Newcastle and Surrey (England) demonstrated in 2016 that eating late and never having meals at the same time would be harmful to health. In addition, it is no coincidence that many experts today advocate intermittent fasting to keep the figure. This practice is simply to distribute its food intake over certain time slots.

While there are certain times when we should avoid eating at all costs, it is late at night and especially at night. This is essential if you want to prevent weight gain, but also if you want to stay healthy for as long as possible.
One of the biggest risks, if you are used to snacking at night, is gaining weight. You risk storing more overnight.

The explanation is simple: during sleep, the sugar and fatty acids that were not burned during the day remain in the blood and travel to the adipocytes, whose envelope is particularly permeable after dark. Result: we store fat, sugar, and we even expose ourselves to cellulite.
And all the more so since your body spends less energy at night. In addition to nighttime cravings, if you tend to go to bed after a caloric meal, you will store this excess as well.

Digestive disorders: if you eat at night, it will take you 3 hours to digest

In the shorter term, snacking at night will interfere with your sleep. Digestion requires a lot of energy from your body. During the day, you work out and that's why you end up eliminating what you ingest. However, at night, your body is at rest. Be aware that if you eat something, it will take you three hours to digest it. "Even if you end up sleeping, your body will continue to work so your sleep will not be restorative", explains our nutritionist.

Digestive discomfort will interfere with your sleep

A previous study published in 2016 in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Nutrition Society warned people who used to eat after 9 p.m. Bowel movements stop from 10:30 p.m. The later and richer you dine, the more likely you will be to experience digestive discomfort. Not to mention your body temperature which will rise. It will interfere with your sleep.

If you are fond of nighttime snacking, you may be prone to stomachaches, abdominal pain, or other digestive discomforts the next day. You may feel bloated for part of the day.

Digestion: foods to absolutely avoid at night

To avoid complicating digestion at night, it is better to avoid red meat, dishes in a sauce, and starches for dinner. Above all, if you are hungry at night, do not fall back on cold meats, cheese, chocolate, bread, or aperitif cakes. In addition to promoting weight gain, they will hamper digestion and affect your sleep.

If hunger becomes really untenable, bet on an herbal tea. Hot can help reduce hunger. If you want to limit the damage, you can also go for plain yogurt as long as it is sugar-free. As for the box of Corn Flakes, we can indulge ourselves, but only if we settle for a handful.

Nighttime snacking may increase your risk for diabetes

Besides weight gain, trouble sleeping, and digestive discomfort, snacking at night can also make you susceptible to diabetes.

A study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania (USA), published in 2017, already pointed in this direction. Scientists studied nine adults: some were invited to dinner before 7 p.m., others had until 11 p.m. to eat. "The team found that when participants ate later, compared to the daytime condition, sugar and fat levels increased," the study said.

The later you eat dinner, the higher the sugar and fat levels in your blood, hence the benefit of eating foods with a low glycemic index.

Eating at night is also bad for your heart

Another study showed that nighttime snacking affects both your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico have confirmed that eating at night is associated with a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. To reach these conclusions, they evaluated the levels of fat or triglycerides in the blood of rats fed at the start of their rest period. The team finds that blood lipids are higher in animals fed before their rest period. However, we know that high levels of fat in the blood are associated with heart disease and diabetes.

Snacking at night can make you irritable and affect your memory

A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology also demonstrated the psychological dangers of nighttime snacking. Poor eating behavior at night can explain certain irritable and withdrawn states, especially in the workplace.

"For the first time, we have shown that healthy eating immediately affects our behaviors and performance at work," said Seonghee Cho, corresponding study author and assistant professor of psychology at North Carolina State University.

They may feel guilty after snacking at night

The researchers found that not only were people prone to nighttime snacking more likely to experience headaches, stomach aches, and diarrhea the next day, they also tend to be more tense and irritable. Additionally, they may feel guilty or ashamed of their food choices. This behavior is therefore conducive to a tense and withdrawn state.

"What should be remembered here is that we now know that an unhealthy diet [at night in particular, editor's note] can have almost immediate effects on performance in the workplace," warn the researchers.

Be careful, snacking at night affects your memory

Eating at night can also have negative consequences on cognitive functioning. American researchers have made the link between nighttime snacking and cognitive performance. Their observations, published in the scientific journal eLife, show that if we tend to eat at night, we may be more prone to memory loss.

It is the cognitive functions linked to the hippocampus, in the brain, which are altered following nocturnal snacks. Indeed, the hippocampus controls long-term memory and allows the recording and organization of new memories.

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