Israeli researchers found in a small study that saving most carbohydrates for dinnertime may help keep people from feeling hungry the following day, supporting weight-loss efforts for those who are obese.
The study authors were curious after reading research on Muslims during Ramadan, an annual month of religious fasting. During this period, Muslims fast during the day and then eat a high-carbohydrate evening meal.
Previous studies have found that the concentration of carbohydrates consumed at the end of the day modifies the typical day-night pattern of leptin, a hormone responsible for satiety, or feeling full. Muslims are better able to adhere to their daytime fast by pushing most carbohydrates to dinner, the study authors said.
“We believe low leptin levels during daytime are remnants of evolution when prehistoric man had to wake up and look for food,” explained Zecharia Madar, professor emeritus at the Institute of Biochemistry, Food Science and Nutrition at Hebrew University in Tel Aviv. “Today, as food is highly available, this mechanism is unnecessary, and an easy way to obesity.”
The researchers were also interested in the hormone ghrelin and the protein adiponectin. Ghrelin is produced in the stomach and usually increases before meals to stimulate eating. Considered the “hunger hormone,” it seems to work against dieters because it tends to peak after 1 p.m. (causing afternoon snacking) and is at its lowest level during the night. Adiponectin plays a role in the development of insulin resistance — which can be a forerunner to diabetes — and hardening of the arteries.
The research was published in two parts, in the October 2011 issue of Obesity and in the August online issue of Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases.
The study involved 63 male and female police officers aged 25 to 55, who had a body mass index — a measure of body fat based on height and weight — greater than 30, which is considered obese.
Read more: Barbara Bronson Gray, Health