The timing of meals could be as important as what you eat to improve body composition and help to decrease risk for obesity-related diseases like type 2 diabetes, new data is starting to show.
Research on the long-term effects of time-restricted feeding was until now limited, but this study shows that, combined with exercise and a balanced diet, eating within a certain time frame could positively impact metabolism.
Time-restricted feeding is a form of intermittent fasting that involves following the same eating routine each day, with a certain number of hours designated as the fasting window and the remaining hours as the feeding window.
Food intake schedules of time-restricted feeding vary from anywhere between 16 to 20h of fasting and between four and eight hours of feeding. Here, the study investigated the effects of 18h of fasting combined with six hours of feeding.
Many mice studies have demonstrated, among other things, that eating this way reduces fat mass and decreases the risk for chronic diseases. Researchers set out to verify if this held true in humans.
In this first one-week human trial of fasting, 11 overweight men and women ate within a six-hour windown, which is the equivalent of having the last meal before 2 pm during a 12h working day, over four consecutive days, and kept normal eating patterns for the rest of the week.
The results, which were presented last week at the Obesity Society’s annual meeting in New Orleans, show that this eating plan, although followed for a relatively short amount of time, helped participants burn more fat and reduce their cravings.
Another interesting finding is that it seems to improve the body’s ability to switch between burning carbohydrates to burning fat for fuel, which suggests that this method could work well in combination with a low-carbohydrate, or ketogenic diet.
According to the Louisiana State University researchers, time-restricted feeding works this well because of its relationship with the body’s circadian clocks, and 40 to 50 per cent of clock-regulated genes deal with metabolism.
Previous studies have shown that many aspects of certain internal clocks function best in the morning – because of how much light we get – while others are brought about by when we eat. For example, we tend to be more insulin resistant later in the day.
This underlines the fact that both elements are important and, therefore, aligning the timing of eating with the body’s circadian clock by eating earlier in the day could be preferable for metabolism.
However, medical supervision is always recommended for people with diabetes who participate in a fasting-mimicking regimen of eating, as medications might be affected by such a schedule change.

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