Most dieters know the hard truth: Sticking to a weight loss regimen gets more difficult as the day wears on. But while those who give in to food cravings and binge at night may blame flagging willpower, a new study suggests the problem could lie in the complex orchestra of hormones that drive hunger and signal feelings of satiety, or fullness.
The small study of 32 obese men and women, half of whom had a habit of binge eating, suggests that satiety hormones may be lower during the evening hours, while hunger hormones rise toward nightfall and may be stoked even higher by stressful situations. Overweight binge eaters may be particularly susceptible to the influence of fluctuations in these appetite-regulating hormones, the researchers found.
“There’s more opportunity to eat in the evening, but this study is showing that hormonal responses are setting them up to do this,” said Susan Carnell, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who was a first author of the study along with Charlotte Grillot of Florida State University. It’s not clear whether these hormonal patterns precede and cause the binge eating behaviors or are conditioned by an individual’s eating habits, Dr. Carnell said. But either way, “you can get stuck in the cycle.”