New research suggests that the time at which food is eaten is almost as important as the types of food that are eaten in relation to obesity levels.
Based on studies in mice, scientists based at Salk's Regulatory Biology Laboratory have found that regular eating times and extending the daily fasting period may counteract the effects of a high-fat diet. Such lifestyle changes may also prevent obesity, diabetes and liver disease.
For the study, as indicated in the research summary, two sets of mice, which shared the same genes, gender and age, were fed a high fat diet (where 60% of the calories came from fat). One group of mice were allowed to eat whenever they wanted. The other group was restricted to eating for only eight hours every night, thereby fasting for about sixteen hours a day. The test was run for one hundred days.
According to Newswire, the main finding from the research was that mice which were limited to eating during an eight-hour period were generally healthier than mice that eat freely throughout the day. This was regardless of the quality and content of their diet.
Scientists generally assume that the cause of diet-induced obesity is nutritional; however, the findings suggest that the spreading of caloric intake through the day may contribute, as well. The implications of the findings are that regular eating times and fasting for a significant number of hours a day might be beneficial to human health.
The research findings were published in the journal Cell Metabolism in May 2012. The reference is:
Megumi Hatori. Time-Restricted Feeding without Reducing Caloric Intake Prevents Metabolic Diseases in Mice Fed a High-Fat Diet. Cell Metabolism, 2012