Have you been watching Nigella: At My Table? In the show, the original domestic goddess herself makes late-night snacking look incredibly glam, donning her silky dressing gown and immaculate make-up to cook up a midnight feast to satisfy her cravings. Luckily, there seems to be a camera crew camped out in her kitchen at all hours to capture these moments, as she effortlessly whips up a late-night delight of homemade chocolate brownies or a toasted cheese sandwich that incorporates figs.
Our nighttime snacks tend to be less sophisticated than Queen Nigella’s; handfuls of cereal stuffed in our mouths straight from the packet or biscuits sneaked from the tin and, if we do go all out and make a toastie, it certainly doesn’t contain figs. Add in bleary eyes, bed-head hair and a fleecy onesie that’s two sizes too big for extra comfort and has definitely seen better days, and it’s a world away from the glamour of Ms Lawson’s midnight treats.
And that’s not all. According to new research published in the journal Experimental Physiology, regularly eating late at night could actually be damaging our health.
Scientists have carried out tests involving rats, feeding some before a period of rest and some after they had rested and before a period of activity.
They found that the rats that ate shortly before going to sleep had significantly higher levels of fat in their blood, meaning their arteries were at greater risk of becoming clogged.
This subsequently meant they were at a higher risk of developing heart disease or type 2 diabetes, and the researchers believe these risks could be the same for humans with a habit of late-night feasting.
But is the occasional fistful of cereal washed down with a glug of milk straight from the bottle really such a big risk? Probably not, if it remains very occasional, but the researchers explained that people who regularly eat just before bed after working shifts or just out of bad habit could be at risk of health problems in the future.
Co-author of the research Dr Ruud Buijs commented: “Doing this frequently, with shift work, jet lag or staying up late at night, will harm our health in the long term, especially when we eat at times we should sleep.
“Studies show that night workers, who have activity and meal patterns shifted towards the night have an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases.”
So, how worried do you need to be? If you work shifts, make sure you’re eating in the middle of your shift, rather than right at the end before bed. Fill up on slow-release carbohydrates like wholemeal bread and brown rice so you don’t get those late-night cravings when you do get home.
You should follow this advice if you’re a late-night snacker simply out of habit too. If your meals are filling you up nicely for several hours, you shouldn’t need to be reaching for the cereal box in the middle of the night.
As for those nights when you can’t resist temptation, we give you permission not to worry about your hair/make-up/general attire. We can’t all be Nigella, after all – and we’re forever thankful there is not a camera crew camped out in our kitchen, judging us for the lack of figs on our cheese on toast.