Use of artificial light resulted in relative independence from the natural light–dark (LD) cycle, allowing human subjects to shift the timing of food intake and work to convenient times. However, the increase in artificial light exposure parallels the increase in obesity prevalence. Light is the dominant Zeitgeber for the central circadian clock, which resides within the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus, and coordinates daily rhythm in feeding behaviour and metabolism. Eating during inappropriate light conditions may result in metabolic disease via changes in the biological clock. In this review, we describe the physiological role of light in the circadian timing system and explore the interaction between the circadian timing system and metabolism. Furthermore, we discuss the acute and chronic effects of artificial light exposure on food intake and energy metabolism in animals and human subjects. We propose that living in synchrony with the natural daily LD cycle promotes metabolic health and increased exposure to artificial light at inappropriate times of day has adverse effects on metabolism, feeding behaviour and body weight regulation. Reducing the negative side effects of the extensive use of artificial light in human subjects might be useful in the prevention of metabolic disease.