Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Is it when you eat, not just what you eat?

New research suggests if you don't eat from dinner until breakfast, you'll be less likely to gain weight. • But is that advice really new? • According to researchers at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., mice fed a high-fat diet for only eight hours a day remained lean, while another group that had access to the same food 24/7 became obese, even though both groups consumed about the same number of calories.

On top of that, the obese mice developed high cholesterol, high blood sugar, a fatty liver and other metabolic problems, while the mice forced to fast 16 hours a day showed virtually no sign of such problems.

Why such a big difference in outcome between two groups eating the same amount of food?

Lead author Satchidananda Panda says the body's internal clock determines when the liver, intestines, muscles and other organs work at peak efficiency. During those periods the organs are primed and ready to deal with the processing of food, but when mice — and possibly humans — eat frequently all day long, they force their organs to deal with food when they're not operating at peak efficiency. For example, measures of digestive hormones, cholesterol and glucose in the fasting mice showed that their liver enzymes had a chance each day to break down cholesterol into bile acids.

"The focus has been on what people eat," Panda said in a statement announcing the results, which appeared in the journal Cell Metabolism. "We don't collect data on when people eat."

The mouse study, he believes, shows that when people eat matters as much as what they eat.

But didn't Oprah adopt the practice of overnight fasting years ago? Her diet and nutrition guru Bob Greene advised her to stop eating by 7 p.m. each day, and not eat again until breakfast, and she credited that with helping her to lose weight.

"It's common sense," said Greene, whose most recent book, 20 Years Younger, was just published.

"I didn't structure this way of eating based on scientific evidence, but we know that your digestion pretty much ends when you reach a certain stage of sleep. I structured my own eating so I wouldn't have much food in my stomach overnight and found that I felt better, and my weight-loss results were better. It's nice to see research supporting that."

Many nutritionists, however, say that overnight fasting only helps control weight because it causes people to eat less.

"A few years ago I had one dietitian come after me," Greene said. "She said, 'It doesn't matter when you eat calories,' and she's right in that an apple has the same number of calories in the evening as in the morning, but the body handles those calories differently."

Of course, both opinions could be true. Throughout most of human history, calories were scarce and snacking was difficult, especially during the darkness of night. Now, however, faced with a cornucopia of rich, inexpensive food available 24 hours a day, eating at night while watching TV has become an honored pastime that provides excess calories when your body is least prepared to digest them.

"You're more likely to burn off the calories you consume early in the day because you raise your metabolic rate when you eat in the morning," Greene said. "At night, not so much."

Tom Valeo writes frequently about health matters. He can be reached at tom.valeo@gmail.com.

Is it when you eat, not just what you eat? 08/22/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 4:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Once 'angry' about Obamacare, Republican David Jolly came to see it as 'safety net'

    Blogs

    Former Congressman David Jolly, who ran against Obamacare in 2013, said in an interview Monday night that he now considers it a "safety net."

  2. Five children hospitalized after chlorine release at Tampa pool store

    Accidents

    Five children were sickened at a pool store north of Tampa on Monday after a cloud of chlorine was released, according to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

  3. Deputies find unidentified decomposing body in Dunedin canal

    Public Safety

    DUNEDIN — Pinellas County sheriff's deputies found an unidentified male body floating in a Dunedin canal Monday afternoon, the Sheriff's Office said.

  4. Rays acquire slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from Marlins

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chaim Bloom said the Rays weren't necessarily in the market for a shortstop. The team has a number of those. But when the Marlins recently began shopping Adeiny Hechavarria, well, that was too much to pass up.

    Adeiny Hechavarria has emerged as one of baseball’s top defensive shortstops in the past three seasons with the Marlins.
  5. Lightning journal: Forward Yanni Gourde agrees to two-year deal

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Just three years ago, Yanni Gourde was fighting to stay in pro hockey.

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde celebrates after scoring against the Florida Panthers during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA108