- Eating late
during the day and stress can induce overeating.
- The levels
of hunger hormones increase and the levels of satiety hormones take a dip
in the evening.
- The findings
can help modify behavior which can prevent overeating.
of food during the day is usually much less, when compared
to that of food consumed in the evenings. We would probably think, that we are
hard pressed for time to grab a bite during the day, and more relaxed in the
evening. However, this is not so. A recent study finds that
the level of hunger hormones rise and satiety hormone levels decrease in the
evening. This means that we will want to eat more and we tend to feel that we
are not full especially in the evening.
Stress may increase hunger hormone levels in the evening, and the
impact of hormones on appetite may be greater for people prone to binge eating
‘Dealing with stress can be one of the sensible ways to reduce the levels of hunger hormones that trigger hunger and over eating.’
"Our findings suggest
that evening is a high-risk time for overeating, especially if you're stressed
and already prone to binge eating," said Dr. Susan Carnell, assistant
professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University
School of Medicine, and the new study's first author.
"The good news is that
having this knowledge, people could take steps to reduce their risk of overeating
by eating earlier in the day, or finding alternative ways to deal with
stress," she adds.
Can Stress be the Reason For
Previous research has shown
that stress during the daytime can increase levels of ghrelin, a hunger
hormone. But then, does stress affect hunger urges at later hours, especially
among those with binge eating disorder? The research team designed an
experiment to measure participants' hunger and stress hormones at different
For the study, the research
team recruited 32 overweight participants aged 18-50. They had a body mass
index ranging from 28-52 with no other health issues.
Each participant was on a
fast for eight hours and then received a liquid meal at either 9 a.m. or 4 p.m.
After about two hours, each participant then underwent a standard experimental
stress test. The participants submerged their nondominant hand in a bucket of
cold water for two minutes and their facial expressions were recorded.
Blood samples were drawn to
assess stress and hunger hormones. The levels of hunger and fullness were rated
by the participants on a numeric scale.
were offered a buffet 30 minutes after the start of the stress test. The buffet
had three medium pizzas, cookies and chocolate covered candies, individual
containers of snack chips, and water.
Stress, Hormones and
can lead to changes in the serum level of many
hormones including glucocorticoids, catecholamines, growth hormone and
prolactin. Stress can relate to the response of the body to disease conditions,
infection or the psychological effect that causes tension, depression.
Stress is a challenge to the natural homeostasis of an organism; in
turn, the organism may react to stress by producing a physiological response to
regain equilibrium lost by the impact of the stressor. One such homeostasis
that is disrupted is that of feeding behavior.
Stress causes disorders in a feedback mechanism related to the
hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This regulates both stress and
feeding responses. Uncontrollable stress can change eating patterns and can
either induce over eating. Those who are stressed generally prefer high fat,
high calorie and foods high in sugar, salt such as fried snacks, pastries,
potato chips, nachos. Over a period of time, this could lead to changes in the body due to stress and can trigger
responses in the brain that promotes overeating.
Elevated Hunger Hormones and
Stress Influence Overeating
It is well known that stress
induces hunger and drives emotional eating. But does the influence of stress
remain the same throughout the day?
The findings show that:
- The time of
day significantly impacted hunger levels. Compared to morning, the
self-reported appetite was higher in the evening.
- The levels
of peptide YY, a hormone linked to reduced appetite, glucose and insulin
levels were decreased.
- Those with
binge eating disorder had higher initial levels of ghrelin in the evening
while it was lower in the morning.
the participants experienced higher levels of ghrelin in the evening and
after the stress test. This shows that stress may trigger hunger in the
evening than during the day.
Tips to Deal With Overeating During The Evening
The study findings now show the scientific evidence that elevated
hunger hormones during the evening is the reason behind over eating. Stress and
binge eating behavior can add on to the risk of obesity.
- Spot the
stressor. Find out what makes you stress out and deal with it.
- At work or
at home, try to finish most of the crucial task as the day begins instead
of accumulating them. This can help reduce tension.
- Space out
your meals through-out the day to avoid overeating during the
- Drink plenty
- Eat balanced
meals. Include plenty of vegetables, greens for lunch.
- Have a
healthy snack or a fruit juice between the lunch and the dinner to avoid
excess food intake.
- To combat
stress, perform relaxation exercises like deep breathing or practice
meditation, yoga, laughter and rhythmic exercises. These exercises help in
bringing the nervous system back to equilibrium.
- 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 (2018). doi:10.1038/ijo.2017.307.
- Yvonne H. C. Yau1 and Marc N. Potenzal. 'Stress and Eating Behaviors.' Minerva Endocrinol. (2013).