because it is better not to eat

Last edit 10.11.2022


Carry out professions that contemplate an organization in shifts, and therefore that also foresee night shifts, could negatively affect the body if meals are eaten in the dark hours. The optimal solution would be to divide the meals in any case during the day in order not to develop disorders related to the biological clock, diabetes, cardiovascular problems but also anxiety and depression, even if this subdivision of meals is not always practicable. A research entitled “Daytime eating prevents mood vulnerability in night work” published in the journal The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals the consequences of eating during the evening shift.

Why not eat during the evening shifts

  • increases the risk of diabetes
  • increased risk of cardiovascular pathologies
  • 24-hour biological clock shift
  • increment of anxiety and depression
  • increased blood sugar
  • cortisol increase
  • increase sleep disturbanceso
  • weight gain
  • digestive difficulties
  • gastrointestinal disorders
  • chronic fatigue
  • oromal dysfunction (in women)
  • menstrual imbalance

The Study on night shifts and meals

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who worked on the study involved a research sample 19 healthy adults, males and females, dividing them randomly into two different experimental groups. For both, diet, physical activity, posture, sleep duration, light conditions were practically identical. The night shift is also the same, recreated in the laboratory by acting on the biological clock of the research participants, through a shift in the circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle / fasting-eating cycle and the external light-dark cycle). The only difference was the time at which meals were taken: the subjects of one group ate meals both during the day and at night, while those of the second group only ate during the day. The study with the laboratory experiment lasted 4 days.

Sleep-wake rhythms: what are they?

  • The circadian or nicthemeral rhythms (nict- night, -emera day) whose frequency is about one cycle every 24 hours (in fact between 20 and 28 hours): wake-sleep alternation, nicthemeral cycle of the central temperature.
  • The infradian rhythms, whose period is more than 28 hours: the annual, seasonal, monthly rhythms.
  • Ultradian rhythms whose period is less than 20 hours.

Anxiety and depression among the consequences

The results highlighted by the group of researchers showed that anxiety (16.1%) and depression (26.2%) increased in the group of people who ate meals during the day and at night. The greater the imbalance of the biological clock, the more anxious states increased. These changes were not found among participants in the second group who ate meals only during daytime hours. The consequence of this experiment highlights how the risk of developing psychiatric diseases is higher in subjects employed in night work, significantly affecting the quality of life of the workers themselves. The desynchronization of the circadian rhythm inevitably causes disturbance of the biological clock.

Shift Worker Syndrome

There is clear evidence that work organized in shifts has a significant impact on the health and quality of life of the worker (but also of any family members who have to “adjust” their habits according to the work shifts) due to the alteration of processes natural “misalignment” of the sleep-wake cycle due to the rhythms imposed by life commitments, called in medical literature as shift work sleep disorder. This can commonly involve:

Who suffers the most. There shift worker syndrome it is more frequent in subjects who work at particular hours, especially during the night between 10pm and 6amsuch as medical and paramedical personnel, law enforcement, tertiary sector employees, night porters.

Increased sugar and mood disorders

Not only the increase in depression and anxiety would be the consequence of meals eaten at night in evening shift workers, but also various health problems affecting the cardiovascular and endocrine systems. For example, several studies on the subject have shown that consuming meals at night significantly increases the level of sugar in the blood which, in turn, can cause the onset of diabetes, metabolic, sleep, endocrine disorders and weight gainas well as depression and mood swings. Furthermore, the consequences are made even worse if the meals eaten in the dark are rich in simple sugars, saturated fats and low in fibre. Following a healthy and balanced diet, and consuming meals only during the day, contributes to the improvement of the general state of health of night workers but also for those who often travel on business trips (jet lag) or for all those who suffer of circadian rhythm disorders and sleep disorders.

If you have a sedentary job, you need to move at least 30-40 minutes a day to compensate.


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