Early morning food intake as a risk factor for metabolic dysregulation

Ellen R. Stothard, Hannah K. Ritchie, Brian R. Birks, Robert H. Eckel, Janine Higgins, Edward L. Melanson, Kenneth P. Wright, Andrew W. McHill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Increased risk of obesity and diabetes in shift workers may be related to food intake at adverse circadian times. Early morning shiftwork represents the largest proportion of shift workers in the United States, yet little is known about the impact of food intake in the early morning on metabolism. Eighteen participants (9 female) completed a counterbalanced 16 day design with two conditions separated by ~1 week: 8 h sleep opportunity at habitual time and simulated early morning shiftwork with 6.5 h sleep opportunity starting ~1 h earlier than habitual time. After wake time, resting energy expenditure (REE) was measured and blood was sampled for melatonin and fasting glucose and insulin. Following breakfast, post-prandial blood samples were collected every 40 min for 2 h and the thermic effect of food (TEF) was assessed for 3.25 h. Total sleep time was decreased by ~85 min (p < 0.0001), melatonin levels were higher (p < 0.0001) and post-prandial glucose levels were higher (p < 0.05) after one day of simulated early morning shiftwork compared with habitual wake time. REE was lower after simulated early morning shiftwork; however, TEF after breakfast was similar to habitual wake time. Insufficient sleep and caloric intake during a circadian phase of high melatonin levels may contribute to metabolic dysregulation in early morning shift workers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number756
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2020


  • Circadian
  • Glucose tolerance
  • Shiftwork
  • Sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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