Could one sim­ple tweak - chang­ing the time you eat - make you feel this good? If so, we want in!

Women's Health (South Africa) - - FRONT PAGE - By Anthea Eng­land


Can you change your body with­out over­haul­ing your diet? Emerg­ing re­search sug­gests one sim­ple tweak could help. Buzz is build­ing around a brand-new acronym: time-re­stricted feed­ing (TRF). Ba­si­cally, an in­ter­mit­tent fast­ing diet that re­stricts your eat­ing pe­riod to be­tween eight and 12 hours a day. The clock starts with your first sip of cof­fee and ends with your last bite of din­ner. So what’s the deal? “When we eat a meal, we process most of it over the next three hours. For many, a lot of their day is spent in this pe­riod when mul­ti­ple meals and snacks are con­sumed,” ex­plains Dr Eve­lyn Parr of the Mary MacKil­lop In­sti­tute for Health Re­search at the Aus­tralian Catholic Univer­sity. “If some­one eats un­til 10pm and then has break­fast at 7am, they don’t have a long overnight fast­ing pe­riod. From ro­dent re­search, the length of that pe­riod could be im­por­tant in im­prov­ing me­tab­o­lism.”


A bit like this: in a 10-hour feed­ing sched­ule, you could have break­fast at 9am, lunch at 1pm and din­ner at 6pm – with your last mouth­ful by 7pm. “My hunch, from what I’ve seen in our pre­lim­i­nary data, is that it may be bet­ter to de­lay break­fast a lit­tle and cer­tainly bring din­ner ear­lier – al­though ev­ery­body has a dif­fer­ent cir­ca­dian pat­tern,” says Parr, who stud­ies timer­e­stricted feed­ing. But the big ques­tion: why do it that way? Glad you asked. “The end of the day is when our body re­sponds poorly to in­sulin – the hor­mone re­leased from the pan­creas in re­sponse to food. When we’re eat­ing re­ally late, in­sulin doesn’t work as well, so we get ex­ac­er­bated glu­cose re­sponses to that food,” ex­plains Parr. “In our study, we’re look­ing at eat­ing within an eight-hour pe­riod, start­ing at 10am and fin­ish­ing by 6pm. How­ever, for most peo­ple, 10 hours would prob­a­bly be more achiev­able.” We agree! The other bonus? If you stop eat­ing ear­lier in the evening, it also cuts out late-night vices by de­fault. Let’s face it: pre-bed snacks are more likely to be ice­cream, choco­late or a glass of red, rather than a bowl of broc­coli. “Al­though the idea is to eat the same food but fit it in a shorter time win­dow, there are also times that peo­ple eat cer­tain foods,” Parr points out. “For ex­am­ple, al­co­hol is some­thing you typ­i­cally drink later at night, so if you bring your cut-off time ear­lier, you’re prob­a­bly likely to drink less. But you’re not ac­tu­ally say­ing, drink less.” Clever, right? Re­gard­less, start­ing your feed­ing clock ear­lier in the day makes prac­ti­cal sense, says nutri­tion­ist and food guru Kris­ten Beck. “By eat­ing ear­lier, you’re way more likely to choose nu­tri­tion­ally valu­able foods and reach your di­etary tar­gets for core food groups. You also give your body the op­por­tu­nity to digest, use or store car­bo­hy­drates (in­clud­ing sugar, protein and fats) in dif­fer­ent (prefer­able) ways in com­par­i­son to if you were to eat these later at night just be­fore you go to sleep.”


So what does the science say? Back in 2012, Dr Satchi­dananda Panda, a pro­fes­sor at the Salk In­sti­tute for Bi­o­log­i­cal Stud­ies and a pi­o­neer in the field, found that mice who ate within an eight-hour time win­dow were health­ier and weighed less than those who were free to eat through­out the day. Here’s the key: both groups of mice ate the same num­ber of kilo­joules from the same high-fat diet. Panda’s fol­low-up stud­ies found that even if they ate for a pe­riod of 12 hours, there were still ben­e­fits for weight con­trol. Mice are noc­tur­nal, but in hu­mans this would be from 7am to 7pm, for ex­am­ple. Bonus: mice who took a “break” on week­ends had sim­i­lar re­sults to those who fol­lowed the diet ev­ery day. An­other study led by Panda and pub­lished in the jour­nal Science dis­cov­ered fruit flies on a 12-hour time-re­stricted feed­ing sched­ule slept bet­ter, gained less weight and – crit­i­cally – had bet­ter heart health than their fly friends who ate when­ever they wanted, de­spite eat­ing roughly the same amount of food. Flies and ro­dents are rad, but how about hu­mans? Be­fore you start wind­ing back the clock, keep in mind that hu­man re­search is in the very early stages. Parr is study­ing the ef­fects of eat­ing within an eight-hour pe­riod – but the re­sults are still TBC. “It could help with main­te­nance of lean mus­cle mass be­cause when peo­ple cut kilo­joules they of­ten lose mus­cle

mass and slow me­tab­o­lism,” she says. “I’d sus­pect fat-mass loss would oc­cur, if this was over a rea­son­able pe­riod of time. Time-re­stricted feed­ing as an eat­ing regime may also im­prove blood-glu­cose reg­u­la­tion, which is ex­tremely im­por­tant for so many peo­ple who have type-2 di­a­betes or pre­di­a­betes. How­ever, at this stage, the re­search is in its in­fancy and we have a lot more to learn.” Look­ing to shed ki­los? Then know this: a hu­man study led by Panda in Cell Me­tab­o­lism found over­weight in­di­vid­u­als who weren’t asked to change their diet, but re­stricted eat­ing to within 10 to 11 hours each day lost an av­er­age of 3.5 per­cent of their body weight af­ter 16 weeks. Added win? They re­ported bet­ter sleep and en­ergy lev­els too. A re­cent study from the Univer­sity of Alabama at Birm­ing­ham also found eat­ing for a short pe­riod early in the day can re­duce hunger swings and rev up fat burn­ing in the evening. Beck points out there’s one big up­side to in­ter­mit­tent fast­ing in gen­eral. “It puts peo­ple back in con­trol of their own hunger and ap­petite cues. A lot of us have be­come con­di­tioned to eat­ing so reg­u­larly that we tend to panic at even the slight­est hunger pang,” she says. “In­ter­mit­tent fast­ing al­lows peo­ple to ac­tu­ally as­sess how hun­gry they re­ally are – and also of­ten il­lu­mi­nates how lit­tle food you ac­tu­ally need to feel sat­is­fied.”


Plan­ning to eat ear­lier? “Make sure din­ner con­tains enough protein – it’s the only macronu­tri­ent that sends chem­i­cal mes­sages to sig­nal you feel full,” Beck ad­vises. Plus, eat fi­bre-rich foods to help man­age ap­petite. “If you do feel hunger and have crav­ings later in the evening, first ask your­self if you’re truly hun­gry or just eat­ing out of habit. Also, have a glass of wa­ter to make sure you’re not just thirsty.” How­ever, un­til science catches up, it’s a case of “watch this space”. “Our un­der­stand­ing of nutri­tion, as op­posed to fast­ing, is a lot more ad­vanced,” Beck ex­plains. “Cur­rently, we have a pretty ex­ten­sive (but cer­tainly not com­plete) un­der­stand­ing of nu­tri­ents that our bod­ies re­quire to grow, de­velop and main­tain health. We also know that if these nu­tri­ents aren’t pro­vided in our di­ets over an ex­tended pe­riod of time, then we’re likely to de­velop po­ten­tially de­bil­i­tat­ing nu­tri­tional de­fi­cien­cies.” Real world trans­la­tion: let’s not eat fried chips for 10 hours and hope the clock will erase the dam­age.


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