Hormones that govern hunger found to rise in the evening hours, raising risk of overeating

Eating in the evening presents a high risk of overeating, especially when coupled with exposure to stress, according to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity. The findings also hinted that people who are prone to binge eating are more likely to overeat.

  • Earlier studies revealed that ghrelin, a hormone associated with hunger, increases as a response to stress during the daytime. In the current study, researchers explored how stress exposure affected hunger urges in later parts of the day.
  • The study gathered 32 participants who were overweight. The sample pool was made up of 19 men and 13 women, aged 18 to 50 years old. Half of the samples were identified to have binge eating disorder (BED).
  • The test was done at different times that started in the morning (9:00 a.m.) or the afternoon (4:00 p.m.).
  • For the study, participants were required to fast for eight hours prior. They then received a standardized liquid meal of 608 calories in the morning or in the afternoon.
  • After 130 minutes, the participants were exposed to a standardized stress test. In the test, a digital camera recorded their facial reactions as their non-dominant hand was dunked in a bucket of cold water for two minutes.
  • Researchers took blood samples to measure ghrelin and cortisol (a stress hormone) levels.
  • Half an hour after the stress test, participants were offered an ad libitum buffet.
  • They found out that the people who undertook the tests in the afternoon reported having a greater appetite than those who took it in the morning. People with BED also exhibited higher levels of ghrelin in the evening.

Researchers inferred that eating in the evening (or late in the afternoon), as well as stress, factors into cases of overeating, especially for people who binge eat.

Journal reference:

S Carnell, C Grillot, T Ungredda, S Ellis, N Mehta, J Holst, A Geliebter. MORNING AND AFTERNOON APPETITE AND GUT HORMONE RESPONSES TO MEAL AND STRESS CHALLENGES IN OBESE INDIVIDUALS WITH AND WITHOUT BINGE EATING DISORDER. International Journal of Obesity; [2017, December 13; accessed 2018 January 25] DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2017.307

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