skipping the evening meal improves our mental health

THE ESSENTIAL

  • Night shift workers are responsible for many hospital services, factory work and other essential services.
  • They have a 25-40% higher risk of depression and anxiety.

Mealtime can have a negative impact on mood and emotional well-being. This was revealed by scientists from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (USA) in a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As part of the research, they wanted to assess the vulnerability of the mood of human beings when working at night.

19 adults followed for 14 days

To carry out their work, the researchers recruited 19 people (12 men and 7 women) and followed them for 14 days. Participants underwent a desynchronization protocol and were placed in a dimmed room for four 28-hour “days”, so that on the fourth “day” their behavioral cycles were reversed by 12 hours, simulating night work and causing circadian misalignment.

The volunteers were randomly assigned to different groups. The members of the first group ate during the day and in the evening. The others ate their meals on a 28-hour cycle, which led them to eat both night and day, like night workers. People in the latter could feed only during the day. The team assessed participants’ moods hourly, particularly for signs related to depression and anxiety.

Eating only during the day is good for morale!

According to the results, mealtimes significantly affected participants’ mood levels. After the experiment, adults who ate meals during the day and evening showed signs of depression (26.2%) and anxiety (16.1%) higher than during the initial evaluation. On the other hand, no change in mood was observed in volunteers who ate only during the day. According to the authors, participants with the greatest circadian shifts showed more marked depressive and anxious symptoms.

“The timing of meals emerges as an important aspect of nutrition that can influence physical health. But the causal role of the timing of food intake on mental health remains to be confirmed. Future research is needed to establish whether changing timing may help people with depressive and anxiety disorders and prevent them in night shift workers”, said Sarah L. Chellappa, author of the study, in a statement.






















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