The timing of the evening meal: how is this associated with weight status in UK children?

Br J Nutr. 2016 May;115(9):1616-22. doi: 10.1017/S0007114516000635. Epub 2016 Mar 15.


There is some evidence from studies in adults and limited evidence from studies in children that eating later in the day may increase the risk of overweight and obesity. In this cross-sectional study, we investigated associations between evening meal timing in children and their weight status and energy intake. Dietary data obtained from the UK's National Diet and Nutrition Survey Rolling Programme (2008-2012) for 768 children aged 4-10 years and 852 children aged 11-18 years were analysed. We tested for an association between evening meal timing (consuming the evening meal before or after 20.00 hours) and risk of overweight and/or obesity, adjusting for relevant confounding variables. We also explored whether evening meal timing was associated with overall nutrient intake. We found no association between evening meal timing and risk of obesity or risk of overweight and obesity combined in either the 4-10 years age group (obesity: OR 1·43; 95 % CI 0·49, 4·13; obesity and overweight combined: OR 1·33; 95 % CI 0·53, 3·33) or the 11-18 years age group (obesity: OR 0·50; 95 % CI 0·24, 1·02; obesity and overweight combined: OR 0·83; 95 % CI 0·50, 1·38), split by sex or as combined. No significant associations were found between evening meal timing and energy intake, and no clear patterns in variation of nutrient intakes with evening meal times were identified. In conclusion, we found no evidence that, for children aged 4-18 years in the UK, eating the evening meal after 20.00 hours was associated with excess weight or increased energy intake.

Keywords: Childhood obesity; Children’s dietary patterns; DRV dietary reference values; EAR estimated average requirement; Meal timings; NDNS RP National Diet and Nutrition Survey Rolling Programme; National Diet and Nutrition Survey Rolling Programme.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Weight
  • Child
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Eating
  • Energy Intake
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meals*
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Obesity* / etiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Overweight
  • United Kingdom
  • Weight Gain