The Best Time of Day

Do Morning People Have More Healthful Meals?

Morning meals have a way of creeping into our reflections on healthy dietary patterns. Questions about breakfast’s effect on weight, which plagued us for years, have mostly been settled. Skipping breakfast  won’t make you fat. But now along comes a study in the March issue of Obesity that raises a new question. Do morning people have an edge with healthier eating patterns?

Mirkka Maukonen and colleagues studied a sample of 1,854 adults in Finland. They used self-reported dietary data and a well-validated questionnaire for distinguishing morning people from evening people. When they analyzed what people ate and when they ate it, distinct differences stood out.

The evening types ate less in the morning than the morning types, with one exception. The evening types ate more sugar in the morning. But in the evening, they ate more calories, sugar, fat, and saturated fat than morning people. These differences were even bigger on the weekends. Commenting for the Obesity Society, UAB’s Courtney Peterson said:

Early birds may have an extra advantage over night owls when it comes to fighting obesity as they are instinctively choosing to eat healthier foods earlier in the day. Previous studies have shown that eating earlier in the day may help with weight loss and lower the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. What this new study shows is that our biological clocks not only affect our metabolism but also what we choose to eat.

It’s tough to be unbiased on this subject because we cannot deny being morning people ourselves. So we’re feeling a little dietary pride with these observations. But pride goes before a fall. Perky morning people can be especially annoying. And anyway, these data only provide us an association with eating patterns presumed to be healthier. They are the basis for an interesting hypothesis.

We need health outcomes data before we can connect the dots.

Click here for the study and here for more on chronotypes and cardiometabolic health.

The Best Time of Day, photograph © Ted Kyle / Instagram

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February 24, 2016