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Time and Food: Chrononutrition & Night Eating

The formation of a well-conceived and balanced nutrition routine is essential to one’s knowledgeable approach to life and health awareness. Developed eating habits are different and unique, as they are adapted to the individual’s work schedule and timing. In today’s world, our lifestyle and diet have dramatically changed due to hectic routines, increased shift work, and outside-home meals that resulted in irregular eating and sleeping patterns.

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Therefore, time and nutrition are inherently connected, as they directly interact throughout the day of an individual and are interdependent. With that said, it is important to examine the relationship between time and nutrition, involving chrono-nutrition and night shift eating, as well as the health outcomes of metabolic and public health.

Nutritional health is fundamental to human wellbeing over the life cycle. According to Leech, Worsley, Timperio, and McNaughton (2015), a “poor diet contributes to poor health” that serves as a risk factor for the emergence of non-communicable diseases, including causes of death on a global scale (p. 1). Hence, they studied the variety of meal patterns and their influence on energy balance and weight status.

The study concluded that within a number of male and female participants of the United States, an increased amount of the consumed energy intake after 17.00 hours is linked with the increased daily alcohol intake. However, there was a decrease in carbohydrate consumption. Moreover, current evidence states that the breakfast skipping habit might be destructive to one’s diet quality, although the nutritional frequency and meal timing requires further examination.

Changes caused by living in the urban environment also influence sleep, and dietary patterns as the population of large cities keep rising. The urbanization process implies multiple dietary and lifestyle factors that affect health, such as “shift work, sleep, stress, physical activity, age, income, pollution, social jetlag” (Pot, 2017, p. 190). The particular impact of timing was studied in terms of the chrono-nutrition issue. Pot (2017) classifies three critical aspects of time, including irregularity, frequency, and clock time, as the actual time of intake. Altogether, they might affect circadian rhythms and be critical to metabolic health.

Urbanization changes sleep, which is a crucial modulator of metabolic functioning, including “energy metabolism, glucose regulation, and appetite” with common obesity outcomes (Pot, 2017, p.192). By examining the relationship between sleep duration and nutritional intake, the study concludes that normal sleep (seven to eight hours) leads to higher consumption of vitamin C, fiber, and iron. Furthermore, the increased levels of serum total carotenoids, selenium, and urinary nitrogen were noted in contrast to short (less than six hours) and long nights (more than nine hours).

The significance of the chrono-nutrition can be traced while considering certain aspects. First, changes in circadian rhythms might affect food metabolisms, such as digestion, food absorption, and energy metabolism through the major clock genes. Secondly, the food and beverage intake timing impact the output of the clock system; for instance, breakfast skipping enhances obesity risk as compared to eating regularly.

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Furthermore, there is some evidence that nutrients, such as “glucose, ethanol, caffeine, thiamine, and retinoic acid,” postpone circadian rhythms (Pot, 2017, p.194). Another aspect implies the relevance of sleep as the determinant of one’s internal body clock. As such, the decreased hours of sleep are connected with increased food consumption, low-quality diet, and overweight, in addition to higher risks of chronic diseases, including CVD, diabetes, and hypertension.

Food timing demonstrated a close correlation with weight regulation, as well as metabolic status. Sofer, Stark, and Madar (2015) provide time-related dietary approaches based on the studies in animal models and clinical studies to address abdominal obesity and metabolic syndrome issues. The study represented the timing of food consumption as the new tactic to face these problems, with the correct restricted meal timing and macronutrient distribution being of the utmost importance. Concerning the simulated night work routine, the meals intake during this period might have negative health outcomes.

As described by Grant et al. (2017), this implies impaired glucose metabolism caused by the inappropriate timing of meals, as well as the beneficial impact of food withholding at night. There were no changes reported concerning the glucose or insulin levels in five days of circadian misalignment with eight hours of daytime sleep (11.00 – 19.00). The increased glucose response to a meal, regardless of increased insulin secretion during the nighttime food intake might be connected with decreased insulin sensitivity. Therefore, the impairments in glucose tolerance were reported only by the group consuming food at night. Furthermore, the study suggests that the benefits of night-time food restraining might continue after the resumption of the night-time hours of sleep.

To conclude, the interaction between the nutrition policy and the aspects of food timing is not an easy concept to discuss because of the lack of new studies and researches. However, several studies were examined for a better comprehension of such an issue concerning the time impact on health, such as poor diet quality, non-communicable diseases, obesity, and impairments in glucose tolerance. Thus, time serves as the risk factor for metabolic and public health, especially for night workers with irregular sleeping routines. The current studies are fundamental for the emergence of innovative and time-related methods of nutrition targeting.


Grant, C., Coates, A., Dorrian, J., Kennaway, D., Wittert, G., & Heilbronn, L. … Banks, S. (2017). Timing of food intake during simulated night shift impacts glucose metabolism: A controlled study. Chronobiology International, 34(8), 1003-1013. Web.

Leech, R., Worsley, A., Timperio, A., & McNaughton, S. (2015). Understanding meal patterns: Definitions, methodology and impact on nutrient intake and diet quality. Nutrition Research Reviews, 28(1), 1-21. Web.

Pot, G. (2017). Sleep and dietary habits in the urban environment: The role of chrono-nutrition. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 77(3), 189-198. Web.

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Sofer, S., Stark, A., & Madar, Z. (2015). Nutrition targeting by food timing: Time-related dietary approaches to combat obesity and metabolic syndrome. Advances in Nutrition, 6(2), 214-223. Web.

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