Early birds may make healthier food choices than night owls

01 March 2017

Early morning risers are more likely to make healthier food choices than people who stay up late, new research finds.

In a study, led by the National Institute for Health and Welfare at the Department of Public Health Solutions in Helsinki, Finland, researchers compared "morning type" people with "evening type" people.

Accordingly, they found that morning people ate more balanced foods overall and ate earlier in the day than those who prefer to stay up late.

"Early birds may have an extra advantage over night owls when it comes to fighting obesity as they are instinctively choosing to eat healthier foods earlier in the day," said The Obesity Society (TOS) spokesperson Dr. Courtney Peterson in response to the findings.

"Previous studies have shown that eating earlier in the day may help with weight loss and lower the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. What this new study shows is that our biological clocks not only affect our metabolism but also what we choose to eat."

For the study, researchers looked at data from nearly 2,000 randomly chosen people to determine if their circadian or biological clock rhythm (chronotype) affected what they ate and at what time.

Differences in both energy and macronutrients between the two chronotypes were evident, with morning people making healthier choices throughout the day.

Evening types ate less protein overall and ate more sucrose, a type of sugar, in the morning. In the evening, night owls consuming more sucrose, fat and saturated fatty acids.

On weekends, the differences between the morning and evening type people was even more pronounced, with evening types having more irregular meal times and twice as many eating occasions. The evening types also slept worse and were less physically active overall.

For people working to lose weight, this new research may also provide a compelling window into why they choose to make certain food choices throughout the day.

"Clinicians can help steer people to healthier options - and suggest the optimal time to eat these foods - based on what we now know about our biological clocks," added Dr. Peterson.

The full study has been published in journal Obesity.

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