Intermittent fasting has shown success in helping people lose weight, but some people can find it difficult to eat normally most days and then severely restrict their food intake other days.
A new study published in the journal Cell Metabolism offers an alternative — time-restricted eating.
Time-restricted eating allows you to eat the same every day, but you limit the time during which you can have food to a 10-hour window. So, if your first meal is at 8 a.m., your last calories for the day will need to be consumed by 6 p.m. For the next 14 hours, you fast.
The new study is small, following 19 people for three months. At the time of enrollment, all participants met three or more criteria for metabolic syndrome:
- Waist circumference of 102 cm (men) or 88 cm (women)
- Triglycerides of 150 mg/dL or higher (or on drug treatment for elevated triglycerides)
- Reduced HDL-C below 40 mg/dL (men), 50 mg/dL (women) (or on drug treatment for reduced HDL-C)
- Elevated blood pressure, systolic blood pressure of 130 or higher and/or diastolic blood pressure of 85 mmHg or higher (or treatment with an antihypertensive drug with a history of hypertension)
- Elevated fasting glucose of 100 mg/dL or higher (or drug treatment of elevated blood glucose)
Participants logged the timing of their meals and their sleep in the myCircadianClock app. They were encouraged to stay hydrated during their fasting periods.
“We didn’t ask them to change what they eat,” NPR reported Pam Taub as saying. Taub is a cardiologist at the University of California, San Diego’s School of Medicine, and an author of the study. Nonetheless, study participants consumed nearly 9% fewer calories.
In addition to weight loss — a 3% reduction in weight and 4% reduction in abdominal visceral fat — Taub said study participants’ cholesterol levels and blood pressure improved.
“We are surprised that this small change in eating time would give them such a huge benefit,” Satchidananda Panda, a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and a co-author of the study, told NPR.
“When you go into a fasting state, you start to deplete the glucose stores in your body and you start to use fat as your energy source,” Taub said.
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