Late night snacking linked to diabetes and heart disease, says study

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What we eat plays a huge role in our overall health and wellbeing.

Certain foods are known to increase or decrease our risk for various conditions and illnesses.

But a new study has found that when you eat, as well as what you eat, can also affect your health.

Research by a team at King’s College London discovered that late night snacking could increase risk of diabetes and heart disease.

More specifically, people who ate most of their snacks after 9pm experienced greater spikes in blood sugar compared to those who snacked earlier.

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This group was also found to have higher concentrations of fat in their blood.

High blood sugar is a risk factor for diabetes, which having too much fat in the blood can increase the likelihood of suffering a cardiovascular disease.

As part of the study, researchers used data from 1,000 people taking part in the Zoe Predict study.

During this, participants kept a food diary and were given blood sugar monitors to keep track of the impact of what they were eating.

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This revealed that most people ate two snacks a day.

One in three participants were branded “late evening snackers”, consuming most snacks after 9pm rather than in between meals.

Lead author of the study, Kate Bermingham, explained: “Surprisingly little has been published on snacking, despite the fact that it accounts for 20 to 25 percent of energy intake.

“Predict followed a large number of people and captured detailed information on their snacking behaviours, allowing this in-depth exploration of snacking on health.”

Researchers also analysed the link between the number of snacks eaten, the quality of the snacks and the timing with blood fats and insulin levels.

People who snacked on higher quality foods – classed as foods that contain significant amounts of nutrients relative to the calories contained – were noted to have better bodily responses.

Overall, this showed that the quality of snacks was still more important to the body than how often they are consumed.

As an example, snacks such as fruit or vegetables yielded a better blood fat and insulin response compared to processed foods, such as biscuits and cake.

Bermingham said: “Our study showed that the quality of snacking is more important than the quantity or frequency of snacking, thus choosing high quality snacks over the highly processed snacks is likely beneficial.

“Timing is also important, with late night snacking being unfavourable for health.

“This may mean that, universally, snacking late in the evening and interrupting the overnight fasting window is detrimental to health.”

The findings were presented at an annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition, held from July 22 to 25.

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