The vast majority of takeaway food in Korea is heavy and ordered late at night as busy workers binge and drinkers try to soak up the evening's alcohol, a survey finds.
Woowa Brothers, the start-up that operates the country's most popular food-delivery mobile service, analyzed 84 million orders between May and November of last year and found that 20 percent were placed between 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. The rate went up even further to 25 percent at weekends.
Fried chicken was by far the most popular snack with 46.7 percent, followed by baked goods like pizza, and tripe and chicken feet at 10.2 percent. All are high in calories and fat as drinkers try to soak up the night's alcohol.
Oh Sang-woo at the Korean Society for the Study of Obesity said, "Korea is unrivaled among countries where late-night takeout food is just a phone call away. The trouble is that it's too easy and obesity is going through the roof."
Lee Haeng-shin at the Korea Health Industry Development Institute analyzed the eating habits of 13,000 people between 20 and 40 and found that consuming 500 kcal of food between 9 p.m. and midnight raised the chances of obesity by 26 percent. That is two pieces of chicken or a slice of pizza.
A nationwide nutrition study in 2016 showed Koreans consuming vast amounts of calories from late-night snacks. Total calorie consumption from fried chicken and beer averaged 24,645 kcal, which is equivalent to 91 bowls of rice.
According to researchers at Hallym University Medical Center and Gachon University, if the amount of calories consumed between dinner and late at night (6 p.m. to 2 a.m.) accounted for 57 percent of people's total daily intake, they faced a 1.3-times higher risk of obesity than those who ate less at night.
"Eating oily food late at night and going straight to bed is a proven shortcut to becoming obese," said Lee Hae-jeung at Gachon University. "Synthesis occurs more effectively at night, so you become fatter than if you eat the same amount in the daytime."
But hectic daily schedules mean that a growing number of people skip breakfast and lunch and binge on late-night snacks. As the pattern is repeated, people can become addicted.
Doctors believe around 10 percent of obese people suffer from this addiction, which can cause stomach problems as well as diabetes and hyperlipidemia.