The Salk Institute published a study in May of 2015, subsequently providing an intriguing new aspect to consider amid the world’s obesity and metabolic syndrome pandemic. The study showed mice limited to eating during an 8-hour period (called “time-restricted feeding” or TRF) to be healthier than mice eating freely throughout the day. After 100 days, the mice who ate frequently gained weight, developed high cholesterol and high blood glucose, showed evidence of liver damage and reduced motor control. The mice who ate in TRF fashion weighed 28% less, showed reduced levels of low-grade inflammation and showed no adverse health effects, despite consuming the same amount and type of food.
Lifestyle modifications such as a nutrient-dense diet and daily physical activity are first-line interventions in the treatment of metabolic syndrome. Much of the research to date has focused on nutrition optimization, as well as small, frequent meals throughout the day for blood sugar stabilization. However, the Salk study suggests that spreading food intake throughout the day may disturb metabolic pathways governed by the circadian clock, just as artificial lighting has been shown to disrupt sleep-wake cycles.
The University of California San Diego Study
Human studies have shown similar outcomes to Salk’s 2015 study. The University of California San Diego studied over 2,000 overweight women to find that TRF (a modified version of intermittent fasting) had positive effects on both blood sugar levels and immune markers. The data revealed each 3-hour increase in nighttime fasting was associated with a 4% decrease in postprandial glucose levels, regardless of how much women ate. Moreover, there was also a reduction in breast cancer risk.
As stated above, “time restricted feeding” or TRF is a modified version of intermittent fasting. If you’re new to this concept, it is a shift in lifestyle and eating patterns where you simply focus on extending the duration of time between eating. The idea is to clear the metabolic pathways governed by the circadian clock. Besides helping to reduce body fat, here are the major benefits of intermittent fasting:
- has a dramatic impact on human growth hormone levels, resulting in greater endurance with faster muscle repair and growth
- may help slow the aging process
- can help regulate insulin levels, which is key for those who are diabetic or obese
Action Steps to an Intermittent Fasting Program
- Start by restricting your feeding time to a 12 or even 10 hour period. For example, eat only between the hours of 7am and 7pm or even 7am and 5pm.
- If you’re comfortable, move back to an 8 hour feeding time and monitor your progress.
- Limit all artificial lighting after dark. Dim lights, consider replacing your lights with red or amber lighting, use blue blocker glasses when viewing screens and monitors.
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