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Eating after 6pm linked to poor diet, Ulster University study finds

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A man eats an Magnum ice cream (Mike Egerton/PA)

A man eats an Magnum ice cream (Mike Egerton/PA)

A man eats an Magnum ice cream (Mike Egerton/PA)

Eating in the evening is associated with a higher total calorie intake and lower diet quality, research carried out by Ulster University has found.

A study of nearly 1,200 UK adults suggests there is a link between eating more in the evening and eating more calories overall, as well as a lower quality of diet.

The research, carried out by Judith Baird from Ulster University's Nutrition Innovation Centre for Food and Health (NICHE), was presented at this year's online European and International Conference on Obesity.

It states that the sensations of hunger follow a strong daily pattern and are often most intense later in the day - a phenomenon that could influence both the type and amount of food we eat, according to the findings.

The survey of almost 1,200 adults divided them into four equal groups, based on how much they ate after 6pm.

Diet quality was assessed by scoring food diaries kept by participants using the Nutrient Rich Food Index. This ranks foods according to the important nutrients they contain relative to their energy content.

Across the whole sample group, eating during the evening provided an average of almost 40% of daily energy intake. But the authors found those who ate least in the evening also consumed fewer calories in total over the day.

Quality of diet also differed across the groups with participants who consumed most of their calories in the evening having a much worse score on the Nutrient Rich Food Index than those in the other groups.

An author of the report said: "Our results suggest that consuming a lower proportion of EI (energy intake) in the evening may be associated with a lower daily energy intake, while consuming a greater proportion of energy intake in the evening may be associated with a lower diet quality score.

"Timing of energy intake may be an important modifiable behaviour to consider in future nutritional interventions.

"Further analysis is now needed to examine whether the distribution of energy intake and/or the types of food consumed in the evening are associated with measures of body composition and cardiometabolic health."

Belfast Telegraph