New App Shows The Longer You’re Awake, The More Calories You Eat

Like most people, you’d probably describe your eating schedule as three meals a day with perhaps a snack or two in between.

But a new research project that prompts people to record every bite and sip they take throughout the day might reveal some unsettling truths about the way you truly eat.

In a three-week study published in the journal Cell Metabolism, most participants claimed to eat three discrete meals a day, but the breakfast, lunch and dinner pattern was “largely absent.” Instead, lead researcher Satchidananda Panda wrote, most people ate “frequently and erratically” throughout the day. About half of the participants grazed for fifteen hours a day.

“People eat as soon as they wake up and roughly eat as long as they are awake,” Panda told The Huffington Post. “This means they are fasting only when they sleep.”

That’s particularly alarming given how little some Americans sleep. “This has a huge impact on how we interpret the data on sleep and obesity/diabetes,” Panda continued. “Since short sleep correlates with obesity/diabetes, it implies people who sleep less may be munching as long as they are awake.”

Lest you think “grazing” refers to the “several small meals” dietary pattern that many weigh loss programs recommend, Panda found that more “eating hours” meant more calories. But perhaps more importantly, eating for so many of our waking hours could be disrupting our circadian rhythms — the clock our bodies use to regulate sleep and metabolism, among other things.

The study, which evaluated the eating habits 150 healthy people, was conducted through an app called MyCircadianClock that was developed by Panda, a scientist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. But even though Panda’s initial study is over, the MyCircadianClock app is still available for download, and research is ongoing.

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