August 20, 2021 — 21:34 PM
Does it sometimes feel like dinner time just keeps slipping later and later into your evening routine? Well, a new study published in Nutrients has a case for keeping dinner early—specifically, just a few hours earlier than you might be used to—and it has to do with blood sugar.
In a small randomized crossover study, the researchers had the twelve participants (10 women and 2 men) either eat dinner “late” at 9 p.m. or an “early” dinner at 6 p.m., and monitored their blood sugar levels by having the participants wear continuous blood glucose measuring devices. Blood sugar levels were recorded every 15 minutes.
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The results? Eating dinner a simple three hours earlier demonstrated positive effects on blood sugar levels. The group that ate an earlier dinner showed lowered blood sugar levels throughout the night, compared to the later group—even when the meals were the same. They also noted that in the group that ate dinner later, the average blood sugar level three hours after eating was higher.
Researchers further found that the earlier dinner group had a “more significant” decrease in MAGE—which stands for Mean Amplitude of Glycemic Excursions and serves as a measure of glycemic variability. When compared to the later group, on day two the early diners also reported feeling a greater “desire to eat, capacity to eat, and hunger” late at night (around 11 p.m.).
According to the researchers, this is the first study to conclude that eating dinner earlier in the evening can have a positive impact on glycemic control that evening and over the next day. Helping to manage glycemic control is beneficial for overall health, and while things like being conscious of the glycemic index of the foods we eat can help, this study is adding to knowledge of how timing impacts blood sugar, too.
Balanced and steady blood sugar levels are important because blood sugar can be a contributor to different chronic health conditions over time. In healthy people, this study demonstrated that adjusting your dinner time by just a bit may help with this important health metric.
But really, eating dinner earlier can also positively impact other key health factors. For example, earlier evening meals mean you can get to winding down sooner, which could lead to better sleep. Plus, managing blood sugar can positively impact many health outcomes, and there’s a number of strategies that can help with blood sugar balance—from adjusting diet to exercising regularly.
Bottom line: Blood sugar balance is important for your overall health. And eating a few hours earlier may just be a strategic tool worth using.