In our previous exploration of intermittent fasting, we took a half-assed approach to full health benefits, focusing on the what and the how of eating. However, new evidence reveals that the timing of eating may be just as important, if not more important, in reaping the full advantages of a calorie-restricted diet.
A pioneering study done by neuroscientists at the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute at UT Southwestern has shed light on the critical role that meal timing plays in extending lifespan. The study, which used lab mice, discovered that timing feedings with the active portion of the circadian cycle could dramatically increase the rodents’ lifetime.
The mice in the research who ate whenever they pleased lived for approximately 800 days, which is rather typical for their species. When the mice were put on a calorie-restricted diet but allowed to eat whenever they wanted, their lifespan increased by 10% to 875 days. This shows that just lowering calorie intake without taking meal timing into account may not be as beneficial in extending lifespan.
The scientists then went a step further by matching the time of the low-calorie meal to the mice’s circadian cycle. When the mice’s circadian cycle was confined to the inactive period, their lifetime rose by about 20% to an average of 959 days.
The most striking finding, however, came when the low-calorie diet was only supplied during the active phase of the cycle. These mice’s longevity increased to approximately 1,068 days, an increase of over 35% above the unrestricted eaters! This shows that meal timing, in accordance with our natural circadian cycles, could be critical in maximizing the advantages of a calorie-restricted diet.
Interestingly, the mice’s body weight did not change depending on the pattern or time of eating. This calls into question the widely held belief that body weight is a reliable predictor of health and lifespan. It implies that, even at low body weights, meal time can have a major impact on longevity.
The mice with the longest lifespans also had improved metabolic health, with higher insulin sensitivity and more stable blood sugar levels. They also developed diseases that killed younger mice, such as various forms of cancer, when they were much older. This suggests that synchronizing meal times with circadian rhythms could not only increase lifespan but also postpone the onset of age-related disorders.
So, what does this mean for the rest of us? It is obvious that eating at the right time is critical for getting the most out of calorie restriction. It is not just about eating less, but also about eating correctly – and at the proper time. This study expands our understanding of diet and health, and it is an important breakthrough in the realm of nutrition and wellness.
So, the next time you are considering a midnight snack, you might want to reconsider. It is not simply what you eat, but also when you eat it.