Dietitians and the physicians often recommend avoiding the consumption of food before going to sleep and restricting food intake at dinner time.
Surprisingly, the scientific facts in support of such advice are not particularly well established. This, however, may change soon with the new data obtained in animal experiments by researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California.
Reversing weight gain and symptoms of diabetes
The scientists found that restricting the animal’s access to food to only 9-12 hours a day helps to prevent and even reverse the weight gain and symptoms of type II diabetes.
Scientists compared a group of mice on time-restricted feeding with the mice receiving exactly the same amount of food (in terms of calories) at any time during the 24 hours.
The data have shown clear benefits of having a food-free window for at least 12 hours. The results were the same regardless of the diet composition. Benefits were seen even when mice were allowed a day or two of “food cheating” during weekends.
Obese mice that were placed on time-restricted diet lost 5% of their body fat even without any changes in the overall caloric intake.
Daily 12-hours food-free period activates fat burning mechanisms
Scientists believe that keeping food intake to 9-12 hours a day helps to turn up an important fat burning metabolic mechanism. This mechanism remains inactive in the conditions when the food flow is not restricted to only certain periods during the day.
Although the current study was done on animals, there is no reason to believe that this mechanism in humans will be substantially different.
In addition to the metabolic changes, time-restricted feeding changes the gut microbial flora allowing the beneficial species of bacteria to flourish.
The bacterial population of guts is often affected by inconsistent patterns of food intake.
It remains to be seen if the same results will be found to be true in humans. The human trials in time-restricted feeding are currently under way.
Restricting the food intake to only 9-12 hours per day without caloric restrictions prevents weight gain and the development of diabetes in mice. The human trials on the effect of time-restricted feeding are currently being performed.
- Amandine Chaix, Amir Zarrinpar, Phuong Miu et al. Time-Restricted Feeding Is a Preventative and Therapeutic Intervention against Diverse Nutritional Challenges. Cell Metabolism 20, Issue 6, p991–1005.