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Big dinner, bad nutrition? Study explores eating in the evening

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Coleraine, Northern Ireland — If dinner is typically your largest meal of the day, you might be consuming more calories than necessary – and not eating the most nutritious food, according to researchers from Ulster University.

Using the Nutrient Rich Food Index, the researchers analyzed 2012-2017 food-diary data from nearly 1,200 adults from 19 to 64 years old who participated in the United Kingdom National Diet and Nutrition Survey. They found that participants who consumed the largest portion of their daily calories after 6 p.m. had “significantly worse” scores on the index than the rest of the sample group. Additionally, those who took in the fewest calories in the evening consumed fewer calories (energy intake) throughout the day than other participants.

“Our results suggest that consuming a lower proportion of [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,” the researchers said in a university press release. “Timing of energy intake may be an important modifiable behavior 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.”

The study was presented at the European and International Conference on Obesity, hosted virtually Sept. 1-4.

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