Question to an expert: Is it true that eating after six is ​​harmful

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“Don’t eat after six” has long entered the Russian language not only as a synonym for a weight loss formula, but also as a healthy habit. Is there any scientific basis for this statement? Are evening calories different from morning calories ? Let’s figure it out together with an expert.

Masha Budryte

Nutritionist, graduate of King’s College London

Where did the idea come from that it is better not to eat after 18:00 to lose weight or improve health is unknown. This figure appears mainly in the post-Soviet space, and in English-speaking countries you can often hear about eight in the evening. The expression “Eat breakfast yourself, share lunch with a friend, and give dinner to the enemy” is attributed to the Russian commander Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov, who, apparently , had very strict daily routine. The Duke of Richelieu wrote about him in his memoirs: “Suvorov dines in the morning, ” he writes, “he dines in the afternoon, sleeps in the evening, sings part of the night, and at dawn he walks almost naked or rolls in the grass, which, in his opinion, is very good for health. … “. The French military leader Comte de Dame, who had served in the Russian army for several years , was once invited by Suvorov to dinner “exactly at six,” but when he appeared at the appointed time, they explained to him that the commander-in-chief meant six in the morning, not evening. Perhaps the popular “after six” food restriction is related to this story.

In traditional Chinese medicine, it is believed that depending on the time of day in the body, various “meridians” – areas of circulation of “energy” within the body are activated . The day is divided into twelve segments, each of which corresponds to the greatest activity of a particular meridian. According to the Chinese sages, it is best to wake up and empty the colon from five to seven in the morning, have breakfast from seven to nine, and breakfast should be the largest meal of the day – supposedly at this time the stomach is working most actively. Lunch falls between eleven in the morning and one in the afternoon, and the last meal should be from five to seven in the evening (from nine to eleven you need to go to bed). From the point of view of Chinese medicine, if you follow these and some other prescriptions, you can achieve a balance between positive energy (yin) and negative energy (yang).

Of course, this view is far from evidence-based medicine – today science has not found signs that human health depends on the movement of intangible “energy” in the body. From the point of view of science, we have a ” biological clock” , and in their basis is not a metaphysical energy and proteins that control the biochemical and physiological processes in the cells. The main “clocks” with which the rest are synchronized are located in the hypothalamus, and the main stimulus for them is light. On circadian rhythms are influenced by different external and internal factors – the change of time zones, work shifts, an unstable time of awakening and falling asleep. Circadian rhythms determine the state of the body during the day, affecting, inter alia, the quality of sleep, hunger and mood. For the discovery of genes responsible for the production of biological clock proteins that affect circadian rhythms in 2017, Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young received the Nobel Prize .

Modern nutritionists believe that from the standpoint of loss and weight gain is important only how many calories a person received for the day, and how much was spent, regardless of the fact, in what time of day people took food. However , in some studies, mice that ate before bed put on weight compared to animals that ate the same amount of calories at other times of the day. Problems arose when the animals turned on the lights at night – apparently , their circadian rhythms were out of order.

It is only important how many calories a person received per day, regardless
of what time of day the person ate food.

Studies in humans show different results. According to British children’s nutrition and lifestyle statistics from the largest analysis of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, eating after 8 p.m. is not associated with increased weight. This is happening , and with diet in adulthood – the total number of calories produced per day, a stronger effect on body mass index than the meal. An important caveat: scientists argue that people who eat at night have a higher risk of getting too many calories per day in general. A late supper itself is not a problem; but the situation when the meal for the night is something like a second or even a third supper should raise questions.

recent study in Japan found that a short (less than two hours) interval between dinner and bedtime does not affect blood glucose levels and does not increase the risk of diabetes. Eating late can lead to unpleasant consequences such as abdominal discomfort and difficulty falling asleep. In this regard, the recommendation “do not eat after …” may take place, but the specific numbers depend on when you go to bed; with heartburn, bloating, it is recommended not to eat 3-4 hours before bedtime. Of course, the approach should be individual: one person sleeps better if several hours have passed after dinner, and the other needs a snack or a glass of milk just before going to bed.

In recent years, intermittent fasting has been gaining popularity. According to one of its options, you can eat only for eight hours a day, and the remaining sixteen – you need to abstain from food. Some studies show that this approach can be useful: at the same time, different organs respond better to insulin, a number of risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, such as “bad” cholesterol, inflammatory markers, and others , are reduced . However , studies in people following this diet have been brief and do not show how this diet affects long-term health. The problem with this approach is that, as with any rigid diet , there is a risk of “breaking off,” and alternating diets and breakdowns can lead to a whole range of eating disorders.

Nutritionists and by experts nutrition does not tire of repeating: to maintain health is much more important to maintain a balance in the diet and work on eating habits, than to try to short-term solutions like dieting. Avoiding food when you are hungry may not produce the desired results, leaving you feeling tired, anxious, or in a bad mood. If you are worried about your own eating habits, you should contact a specialist who will help you figure it out and give the necessary recommendations.

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