A new study has linked irregular eating schedules during the weekend – labelled "eating jet lag" by researchers – to an increased body mass index (BMI). While the formula that uses a person's weight and height to determine their health isn't a perfect measurement, research has found that the higher your BMI, the higher your risk of developing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and heart disease.
The study published in Nutrients quizzed 1,106 young people on their eating habits and analysed the relation between their BMI and the variability in eating timing during weekends, compared to the rest of the days. They found that almost two thirds of the participants (64 per cent) had more than one hour of eating jet lag and 22.5 per cent had more than two hours of eating jet lag. The findings showed that participants who experienced eating jet lag had a higher risk of obesity, with an average BMI increase of 1.34 kg/m2.
“Our results show changing the timing of the three meals during the weekend is linked to obesity. The highest impact on the BMI could occur when there is a 3.5-hour difference in eating schedules. After this, the risk of obesity could increase, since we saw individuals who showed a 3.5-hour eating jet lag increased their BMI in 1.3. kg/m2," says study co-author María Fernanda Zerón Rugerio.
Researchers believe this is due to "chronodisruption" – which is when the your body clock doesn't sync up with your social life. Basically, your body is a fickle beast and likes to know when it's being fed so it can act accordingly.
"When intake takes place regularly, the circadian clock ensures that the body’s metabolic pathways act to assimilate nutrients," study co-author Maria Izquierdo Pulido says.
But when your body expects sleep and gets served a tasty kebab it doesn't know what TF is going on.
"When food is taken at an unusual hour, nutrients can act on the molecular machinery of peripheral clocks (outside the brain), altering the schedule and thus, modifying the body’s metabolic functions."
While researchers are looking further into this association, the main takeaway (no not that kind of takeaway) is do you best during the weekend to maintain a consistent schedule.