when you eat

When You Eat — Don’t Just Focus on the ‘What’

As we’ve noted previously, it’s not always what you eat, for good nutrition, it’s also when you eat.

We highlighted a study in Cell Metabolism, “Time-Restricted Feeding Is a Preventative and Therapeutic Intervention against Diverse Nutritional Challenges.” The study notes:

  • Time-restricted feeding (TRF) confines food access to 9–12 hr during the active phase
  • TRF is a therapeutic intervention against obesity without calorie restriction
  • TRF protects against metabolic diseases even when briefly interrupted on weekends
  • TRF is effective against high-fat, high-fructose, and high-sucrose diets

Further, we noted that MedPage Today reports that “a small study presented here suggests that routinely eating meals late in the day or at night also increases obesity risk independent of how much sleep people get.”

“After controlling for sleep duration, the laboratory study involving healthy volunteers found that compared to eating during the daytime, prolonged eating that began at noon and went as late as 11 p.m. was associated with weight gain, increases in insulin and cholesterol levels, and impaired fat metabolism.”

Now the New York Times reports: “A growing body of research suggests that our bodies function optimally when we align our eating patterns with our circadian rhythms, the innate 24-hour cycles that tell our bodies when to wake up, when to eat and when to fall asleep. Studies show that chronically disrupting this rhythm — by eating late meals or nibbling on midnight snacks, for example — could be a recipe for weight gain and metabolic trouble.”

“That is the premise of a new book, ‘The Circadian Code,’ by Satchin Panda, a professor at the Salk Institute and an expert on circadian rhythms research. Dr. Panda argues that people improve their metabolic health when they eat their meals in a daily 8- to 10-hour window, taking their first bite of food in the morning and their last bite early in the evening.”

The piece concludes: “While studies suggest that eating earlier in the day is optimal for metabolic health, it does not necessarily mean that you should skip dinner. It might, however, make sense to make your dinners relatively light. One group of researchers in Israel found in studies that overweight adults lost more weight and had greater improvements in blood sugar, insulin and cardiovascular risk factors when they ate a large breakfast, modest lunch and small dinner compared to the opposite: A small breakfast and a large dinner. Dr. Peterson said it confirms an age-old adage: Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.”