EATING during the night increases our chances of developing heart disease and diabetes, according to new research.
Scientists have discovered that nocturnal “snacking” raises the risk of both conditions, with the body’s 24-hour cycle to blame. Researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico looked at levels of fat, called triglycerides, in the blood.
Experimenting on rats, they found that after feeding them fat at the beginning of their rest period, their blood fat levels spiked more drastically than when fed during the beginning of their active phase.
When they removed the part of the brain that controls the 24-hour cycle, there was no longer a change in fat levels.
Lead author Ruud Buijs said: “The fact that we can ignore our biological clock is important for survival; we can decide to sleep during the day when we are extremely tired or we run away from danger at night.”
But he added: “However, doing this frequently – with shift work, jet lag, or staying up late at night – will harm our health in the long-term especially when we eat at times when we should sleep.”
High blood fat levels are associated with both heart disease and diabetes. These diseases are associated with a lifestyle where humans ignore the signals of the biological clock, and eat in the evening and night.
And scientists said the study demonstrated why such a lifestyle out of sync with our 24-hour cycle may result in high blood fat levels and thus in a higher risk for heart problems.
In the UK, heart disease remains the nation’s biggest killer, claiming around 160,000 lives a year.
And diabetes now affects some four million people in Britain, with 90 per cent suffering from Type 2.
Type 1 is an auto-immune disease which cannot currently be cured. Type 2 can be avoided by making lifestyle changes such as taking more exercise and eating a healthy diet.
An estimated 549,000 people have Type 2 diabetes but are not aware of it.
But experts have warned that Britain is sitting on a diabetes timebomb with the number of prescriptions for type 2 sufferers rising by a third in five years from 26 million to 35 million.
Last night research bodies into both conditions urged a healthy lifestyle as the best preventative measure.
The new study is published today in the online journal Experimental Physiology.