A new study by scientists at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, has found that metabolic disorders such as obesity can be corrected by a type of intermittent fasting, in which a person eats all of his or her calories for a day within a 10-hour window of time, according to the new study published on Thursday in the journal Cell Metabolism. The type of intermittent fasting called "time-restricted feeding," or TRF, not only prevented obesity in mice, it did so without changing the type of foods they ate, or their level of physical activity.
But preventing unhealthy weight gain was far from the only benefit of TRF found by the Salk Institute researchers.
"For many of us, the day begins with a cup of coffee first thing in the morning and ends with a bedtime snack 14 or 15 hours later," Satchidananda Panda, senior author of the study, said, as quoted by Science Daily. "But restricting food intake to 10 hours a day, and fasting the rest, can lead to better health, regardless of our biological clock."
"TRF restores rhythms in feeding-fasting, metabolic, and nutrient-sensing pathways, (and) prevents fatty liver, dyslipidemia, and glucose intolerance in clock mutant mice," the Cell Metabolism paper said. "Clock mutant" mice are mice who lack the normal biological, or "circadian" clock believed essential for maintaining a healthy metabolism.
Mice who were missing the gene that regulates the body's clock were more susceptible to diabetes, high cholesterol, and fatty liver — but restricting their feedings to a 10-hour "window" with fasting for the other 14 hours per day allowed the mice to remain healthy and at a normal weight, according to a report on the study by Newsweek.
"This was an unexpected finding," said Panda, as quoted by Research & Development Magazine. "In the past, we have assumed that the circadian clock had a direct impact on maintaining a healthy metabolism, but this puts water on that fire. Our research suggests that the primary role of the clock is to produce daily eating-fasting rhythms, and that metabolic disease is only a consequence of disrupted eating behavior."
The researchers also found that what the mice ate was less important than when they ate it. Mice on a high fat diet who were given 24-hour access to food became obese, while mice who ate the same diet and same caloric intake, but restricted feeding to the 10-hour "window," remained healthy and did not get fat, according to the Science Daily summary of the study.