What & When to Eat: That is the Question

overweight mouse eating chocolate

(DGIwire) Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies found that limiting regular eating times and extending the daily fasting period may override the adverse health effects of a high-fat diet and prevent obesity, diabetes and liver disease in mice.  It seems that when we eat may be as important as what we eat.  They reported that mice that were limited to eating only during an 8-hour period daily were healthier than mice that were allowed to eat freely throughout the day.  This was the case regardless of the quality or content of their diet.

It is often thought that a high-fat diet leads to obesity and that we should eat frequently when we are awake, however, these results indicate that regular eating times along with fasting for about 16 hours a day might be beneficial to our health.

During the 100 day study, the mice who ate fatty food frequently throughout the day gained weight and developed high cholesterol, high blood glucose, liver damage and diminished motor control, while the mice in the fasting group weighed 28 percent less and showed no adverse health effects despite consuming the same amount of calories from the same fatty food.  The fasting mice also outperformed the anytime eaters and even those on a normal diet when given an exercise test.

The findings surprised the researchers.  After all, for the last 50 years experts have advised us to reduce our calories from fat and to eat smaller meals and snacks throughout the day.  Yet, this study has indicated that by eating in time-restricted periods with extended periods of fasting in between, you might get healthier and even avoid the damaging effects of a high-fat diet.  The researchers said they did not find any adverse effects of time-restricted eating when eating healthy food either which is not surprising.

“It has been assumed that the cause of obesity is nutritional in nature; too much of the wrong things or just too much food.  However, the study suggests that the spreading of caloric intake through the day may cause the problem by upsetting metabolic pathways which are governed by the circadian clock and nutrient sensors,” according to  Tom Griesel, co-author of the health book, TurboCharged.

Tom Griesel added, “We advise eating very light during the day and using extended periods without food to accelerate the rate at which the body uses fat stores.  The livers of the time-restricted mice looked very different from their grazing counterparts, which contained much more fat, even though they ate similar diets.  Our bodies did not evolve with and are not designed to handle a constant supply of food.  The body literally burns fat during fasting and will store fat when regularly fed, particularly if concentrated carbohydrates and fats are consumed together. When given the proper nutrients and support, our bodies tend to move toward ideal body composition and optimal health naturally.”