Confining caloric consumption to an 8- to 12-hour period and avoiding midnight snacking can stave off high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity, reveals a new study.
The research by Salk Institute suggested that it's not just what people eat but when do they eat it that matters to their health.
In 2012, Satchidananda Panda, a Salk associate professor, showed that mice which were fed a high-fat diet, but allowed access to that diet for only eight hours per day, were healthier and slimmer than mice given access to the same food for the whole day, even though the two groups consumed the same number of calories.
The new study showed that the benefits of time restriction was surprisingly more profound than initially thought and can reverse obesity and diabetes in animal models.
The authors demonstrated that time restriction better synchronizes the function of hundreds of genes and gene products in our body with the predictable time of eating.
Amandine Chaix, a postdoctoral researcher in Panda's lab said that the therapeutic effect of time restriction was surprising, especially given evidence that nutritional deficiencies in early life can leave a lasting mark on animals' metabolism.
Panda said that using this new experimental set-up-with genetically identical mice consuming equal amounts of a given diet, just within different time windows-gives the researchers a tool to delve further into the causes of diabetes.
A comprehensive analysis of the blood metabolites in time-restricted mice revealed that multiple molecular pathways that go awry in metabolic disease are turned back to normal and protective pathways are dialed up, Chaix further added.
Next steps include looking more in-depth at these pathways, as well as investigating the effects of time-restricted eating in humans.
The study is published in the journal Cell Metabolism.