Eating carbohydrates and starchy foods in the evening may help quell your appetite and aid in weight control, according to researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
In a study of how foods influence the secretion of hormones, the scientists found that the hormones that shut off hunger and make you feel full can exert a stronger effect when carbs are eaten later in the day. Eating evening carbs may also reduce risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The researchers focused on three hormones:
- Leptin: the satiety hormone that decreases during the day and climbs at night.
- Ghrelin: the hunger hormone that increases during the day and drops at night.
- Adiponectin: a complicated hormone that links obesity, insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome. Its level is too low when you are obese.
“The idea came about from studies on Muslims during Ramadan, when they fast during the day and eat high-carbohydrate meals in the evening, that showed the secretion curve of leptin was changed,” explains researcher Zecharia Madar, who teaches at the Institute of Biochemistry, Food Science and Nutrition at the Hebrew University.
The researchers found that the nighttime carb consumption changed hormonal patterns in the dieters’ favor: Leptin was higher during the day, reducing hunger. At the same time, ghrelin, the hunger hormone, peaked only later in the day. Aiponectin, which influences metabolism, was at a higher, more beneficial, level.
The researchers also observed reduced hunger in dieters as well as increased weight loss, reduction in body fat and waistlines. The late-day carbs also improved blood sugar levels and reduced inflammation.
“‘The findings lay the basis for a more appropriate dietary alternative for those people who have difficulty persisting in diets over time,” says Madar. “‘The next step is to understand the mechanisms that led to the results obtained.”