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Does Eating Late in the Day (or Night) Really Make You Fat?

If you heed the advice that "eating after eight turns to weight," then you've fallen for one the most exaggerated health mantras ever doled out to dieters.

I was confident this drop-dead dinner bell must be BS. My thinking was: It's caloric. Don't eat more calories than you burn in a day, and it shouldn't matter when you chow down. And if you're forking down fried dough versus, say, hummus and sprouts, then sure, you'll chub it up.

Then I stumbled across a Northwestern University study of obese men and women that says eating after 8 p.m.—which seems to be the official cutoff time for some reason—may indeed be a risk factor for obesity. (And if you're like me, you're still at work, on the way home, or having your first cocktail of the night at 8 p.m. on most weekdays.)

Thankfully, the study has a big fat (sorry) caveat: It suggests that obese participants in the study who ate later also downed more calories at dinner and consumed more fast food. Those correlations are hard to ignore.

Plus: This is probably not you. You don't eat Big Macs and cheese fries for dinner. You mostly eat smart and control your carbs and portions. Right?

Keep that up and you can dine at any hour. In a 2006 Journal of Obesity study researchers had one group of active primates eat most of their calories at 10 p.m., and another group at 10 a.m., and found no weight gains in either group.

Bottom line: If you generally eat food that's good for you, mind your portions, and stay active, then it doesn't matter when you eat.

—Mike Dawson




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