Limiting eating to specific hours could reduce the risk of heart disease, according to new research.
The study, published in Science and conducted at San Diego State University, reduced the risk of heart disease in fruit flies by restricting their diet to certain times.
To find out why, the researchers examined which genes in the fruit flies had been changed by the time-restricted feeding. There were three genetic pathways that apparently changed.
The researchers then engineered fruit flies that did not have these genetic pathways, to confirm their suspicions. These flies received no benefits to heart disease as a result of time-restricted diet, suggesting that the initial observations were correct.
Girish Melkani, biologist at San Diego State University, said: “If and how these pathways all work together, we don’t yet know entirely.”
Heart disease is one of the most common diabetic complications. Some research indicates that as many as 80 per cent of people with diabetes will die from heart-related conditions. Reducing the risk of heart disease is essential for people with diabetes.
This study is not the first to suggest that when we eat might be as important as what we eat. In December, a study published in Cell Metabolism found that mice that had their diets restricted to an eight hour period were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those that ate throughout the day, even though they were fed the same diet.
Another study, published in Diabetologia, divided diabetic participants into two groups. Both groups consumed the same amount of calories, but at different times: the first group ate more for breakfast, and the second ate more for dinner. The first group had significantly lower blood glucose levels.
The researchers reported: “We detected improved sleep, prevention of body weight gain, and deceleration of cardiac aging[…]even when caloric intake and activity were unchanged.”
Although the study was only conducted on fruit flies, the findings could lead to health benefits for people, too. Melkani said:
“Time-restricted feeding would not require people to drastically change their lifestyles, just the times of day they eat. The take-home message then would be to cut down on the late-night snacks.”

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