Experts back early closure of restaurants

PETALING JAYA: Limited access to late-night eating due to shorter operation hours will be healthier for Malaysians, says Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Prof Dr Barakatun Nisak Mohd Yusof.

The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences deputy dean a lso said that while it would not completely solve the obesity issue in Malaysia, shortening the operating hours for eateries would help reduce late-night eating among the people.

“This, in turn, has the potential to foster healthier eating habits and promote better sleep habits.

“Ultimately, individual health outcomes are subject to personal habits and choices, underscoring the importance of mindful eating practices and lifestyle decisions,” she said.

Prof Barakatun said there was evidence that showed the negative effects of late-night meals, including weight gain, sleep disorders and digestive issues.

“A recent study published in Nutrition and Diabetes in February, drawing upon data from 41,744 participants in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, revealed associations between night eating and increased risks of cancer and diabetes-related mortality.

“Moreover, consuming food after a busy day often leads to overeating, with some studies indicating that individuals who eat late at night exceed 40% of their daily energy requirements,” she said, adding that the surplus calorie intake posed a significant risk factor for obesity.Unhealthy eating habits, paired with unbalanced nutrition, which consists of energy-dense and high salt content during post-dinner snacks, were also linked with the risk of cardiovascular disease.

“However, the study found that consuming food before midnight and opting for low-energy-density foods reduced the elevated mortality risk associated with night eating too.

“In other words, choosing healthier food options and eating earlier may contribute to prolonging life,” she added.

Prof Barakatun said to allow for proper digestion and minimise disruptions to sleep quality, experts recommended finishing meals at least four hours before bedtime.

“The best time to stop eating at night varies depending on individual preferences and daily schedules. This gives the body adequate time to process nutrients and reduces the likelihood of discomfort or reflux during sleep,” she said.

Economist Datuk Dr Madeline Berma said shorter operating hours for eateries would still help improve the economy through increased productivity.

She said that shorter working hours would give workers more personal time, which could lead to higher productivity and increased competitiveness.

“Shorter working hours would also help in reducing unemployment as it would help to redistribute paid and unpaid time more evenly across the population,” said Madeline, who is also a senior fellow at the Institut Masa Depan Malaysia.

Economist Lee Heng Guie said a shift in consumer spending habits and rising operational costs were leading many Malaysian eateries to reduce their operating hours.

The Socio-Economic Research Centre executive director said the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and escalating expenses such as the price of ingredients and rental fees were key factors influencing this trend.

“Generally, prices of most materials have increased; this includes coffee powder and noodles. At the same time, the rental for some premises might also be higher, making it unprofitable to extend hours.

“If they extend the operation, let’s say by an extra two hours after midnight, would the extra costs be worth it? The electricity, overtime pay for workers and other costs,” he said when contacted.

Lee also suggested that customer behaviour might shift as more cost-effective dining options become available. He added that the purchasing power of the people would continue to be challenging and could only be addressed by having a higher income.

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Eateries shortening hours

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