Nutritionist Mythbusting : Is it Bad to Eat at Night?

Nutritionist Mythbusting

There are rumors about diet and health that are commonplace through either centuries of wishful thinking or just people trying to sell something to the public masses. Some of them are as old as 1820, such as the vinegar and water diet. Others are recent, like the keto or the gluten free diet. Either way,these misconceptions have lead to loss of money, health, and in some cases even life. So, what better way to advocate nutrition than to put some of the health and diet rumors to bed?  That is what we are going to look at, as we dive into the madness inducing world of nutrition misconception. And what better place to find the answers than a nutritionist blog?

Is it Bad to Eat at Night?

This one has been around a little while, originating a few decades ago, according to Dr. Amber Kinsey, “Nighttime eating, particularly before bed, is a topic that has received considerable nutritionist, midnight snackmedia attention in recent years. Over the past decades it was thought that health and weight conscious individuals should limit and/or avoid food in the hours close to nighttime sleep because it would negatively impact health and body composition. ”

Jillian Michaels explains the common idea behind  it best.  “Nighttime eating, particularly before bed, is a topic that has received considerable media attention in recent years. Over the past decades it was thought that health and weight conscious individuals should limit and/or avoid food in the hours close to nighttime sleep because it would negatively impact health and body composition. ” So, it would make sense that some people wouldn’t find the idea absurd. But is there any scientific evidence to back up this claim?

But does it hold much water? Where did it start, and why was it popular?

The origins behind this advice were interesting to say the least.

Bad Advice from a Popular Nutritionist

The trend started as advice from an author that was dedicated to diet and health, Daisie Adelle Davis. Miss Davis was the author of several nutrition book, and was considered a leading expert in nutrition at the time. She treated her patients with utmost care, and had formal education on the subject matter in Perdue before graduating at the University of California at Berkeley in 1927.

About Davis

nutritionistDavis had gotten into writing about nutrition later in life, wanting to spread her knowledge further to the public and began to take courses on the subject. She eventually started on promotional work, before publishing her own material on the subject.

Her ideas on nutrition were controversial at the time, because she had no qualms publicly criticizing mass produced canned foods, hamburgers in restaurants like McDonalds, and premade baby food, and fad diets. This was all born out of a passion for urging people to do the right thing by their bodies by observing their nutritional needs. This made the public view her as an eccentric her whole life. It was only after she passed that the anti-authority movement of the 60’s that she was popularized by mostly hippies and people behind the anti-pesticide movement.

Some of her advice was ahead of her time, such as recommending that patients avoided excess fat, salt, and sugars, and watching for vitamin deficiencies.

Her other advice, however, was ineffective at best and deadly at worst. Davis believed magnesium as a treatment for epilepsy, and megadoses of vitamins A&D for all sort of diseases. She was even sued for the harm and death of infants due to mothers following her books to the letter.  They settled out of court  instead of following through with public trial.

One quote in her book in particular was responsible for the idea of not eating late at night, ““Eat breakfast like a king, eat lunch like a prince and eat dinner like a pauper.”

Because of her perceived authority, no one really questioned it and started following the advice to the letter. But does it hold water scientifically?

Calories and Timing

According to experiments run by the Oregon Health and Science University, there is no correlation between what time of day people ate and the weight they gained.  The conclusion that was reported was that, “Under normal circumstances weight fluctuates over weeks and months—not hours—due to long-term patterns of eating and exercise. Although your metabolism does slow down at night, you are still using energy for basic bodily functions, and thus are still burning calories when you sleep.  If you overeat, your body will store the extra calories as fat no matter what time you consume them.”

In layman’s terms, what time of day you eat does not determine weight gain or loss. It is both the quality of what you eat combined with your level of exercise that determines your weight. Our bodies do not run by clocks.

However, that doesn’t mean you need ice cream every night before bed. If you are going to eat at night, you want nutrient dense foods and less calories. If you can do that, you can pretty much still lose weight while sleeping. Or at the least you could keep it off.

This post and more like it done for the Nutritionist Bekah Dewitt of Bek’s Bites in Huntsville Alabama. Call me if you want to set up an appointment.


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