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5 Reasons Not to Eat Late at Night

5 Reasons Not to Eat Late at Night

How many of you count dinner as your final meal of the day?

If it is but a prelude to supper, or you’re prone to late-night snacks while binging on Netflix, you may want to read on.

Because it turns out that grazing after dark isn’t just bad for Gremlins; it can have negative consequences for your health, too.

5 Reasons to Avoid the Fridge After Hours

Most of us are instinctually aware that noshing late at night isn’t exactly great for us. But that gut feeling is also backed by several studies which support the traditional feeding times, as it were.

Here are five reasons to avoid the fridge after hours…

1. Raises glucose and insulin levels

According to a 2017 study by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, eating late at night spikes glucose and insulin levels.

In the study, nine healthy adults consumed three meals plus two snacks between 8am and 7pm each day for a period of eight weeks. Afterwards, the same group changed their eating window, consuming food between midday and 11pm.

As well as the anticipated weight increase, elevated insulin, glucose and cholesterol levels were noted in all nine respondents after the trial ended.

Since raised insulin and glucose are leading causes of diabetes, it definitely seems wise to satisfy your appetite at a more regular hour.

2. Leads to weight gain

There are many reasons why eating late at night could cause you to gain weight. For one, it’s all too easy to overeat out-with ‘set’ mealtimes or when beached in front of the TV. Portion control can very rapidly go out the window!

Much of the belief that snacking close to bedtime affects weight stems from a North American study on mice from a few years ago.

Researchers discovered that mice who ate round the clock gained more fat than those who ate at regulated times during the day: this in spite of both groups consuming the exact same number of calories.

A separate 2013 Israeli study – this time on humans – had one group eat a large breakfast, medium lunch and small dinner; another were given a modest breakfast, medium lunch and hearty evening meal. In the end, the group who ate the large breakfast lost more weight.

The take home: our bodies process food most efficiently when we eat during daylight hours, when our metabolism is functioning speedily.

Ensuring that your meals are healthy should remain the top priority, of course – but paying attention to meal timings is also important.

3. Increases sunburn risk

This might seem like a strange one, but yes, grazing your way through a late-night episode of House of Cards really could leave you susceptible to sunburn the following day: providing, you know, the sun is shining the next day.

This is because eating at abnormal hours disrupts the skin’s biological clock, blunting the efficacy of an enzyme which protects against ultraviolet radiation.

Published in the journal Cell Reports, the University of California study showed that mice given food during daylight hours – contrary to their usual nocturnal habits – were more at risk of skin damage when exposed to ultraviolet B light during the day than during the night.

Skin can be a dead giveaway of what our diet’s like. Now it seems that skin also pays attention to when we eat.

The lesson: follow a regular eating schedule and your so-called skin clock will better protect you from UV.

4. Affects sleep

It stands to reason that feeding soon before you repose would have a palpable effect on the quality of your sleep.

Doing so invariably elevates blood sugar, making it likely that you’ll experience a blood sugar crash while you’re napping. And when blood sugar crashes, levels of cortisol – a stress hormone – rise. Thus, your circadian rhythm, and therefore your sleep, is disrupted.

If you’re aiming for deep and restful shut-eye, make sure your last meal was a few hours in the past. If you’re still having problems, one possible cause is a magnesium deficiency: you can top up your levels by eating magnesium-rich foods and/or using a good-quality supplement.

5. Hampers memory

It won’t be the first consequence you think of, but yes, eating late at night could actually be detrimental to your memory.

In a study by the University of California, it was found that mice with disrupted eating habits were less able to recognise new objects than those who ate at regular times. What’s more, their ability to forge long-term memories was damaged.

These unwelcome changes occur in the hippocampal region of the brain, the area linked to memory formation and storage. Though more evidence is needed, the fact that shift work has also been shown to impair cognition appears to dovetail with the UoC findings.

There you have it: five good reasons to resist a late-night feast. The willpower, alas, is down to you!


Most of us are instinctually aware that noshing late at night isn’t exactly great for us. But that gut feeling is also backed by several studies which support the traditional feeding times, as it were.