Does the time you eat reduce your risk of obesity?

Does the time you eat reduce your risk of obesity?

If you eat only within a certain 12-hour window, could you reduce your risk of obesity and stay healthier?  Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, say their 38-week experiment with mice shows promise.  They believe that meal times may affect your body’s internal clock, which may affect your metabolism.

For the research, study leaders put one group of mice on time-restricted diets.  They could only eat within a 9-12 hour window.  The other group of mice was able to consume food whenever they wanted.  The caloric intake, however, was exactly the same for both groups.  In the end, the mice eating at all hours were generally obese and metabolically ill.  Those mice on a time restricted diet were healthy and sleek.

“While I do believe that your general eating patterns can play a role, total calorie intake is the primary factor in whether or not you are overweight or obese,” says Carrie Ek, registered dietitian and clinical nutritionist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “Note that even the mice with time-restricted diets, had limited calorie intake.  It all does come down to what and how much you put in your mouth.”

But Ek does believe that there should be structure in everyday eating.  She believes it is important to have three meals a day, plus planned snacks, usually one to two a day.

“Becoming overly hungry or not eating for long stretches is not helping,” says Ek.  “Most people do overeat in the evening, in large part, because they did not eat enough during the day.”

Ek recommends the following tips for healthy eating.

  • Grocery shop at least once a week
  • Cook at home, most days
  • Eat fruits and vegetables with all meals
  • Eat less

“Don’t get sidetracked, “says Ek. “Remember that the most important and effective thing you can change is to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.  It lowers not only your risk of obesity, but also almost everything, including cancer.”

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  1. Thank you! When will people realize it is a myth that you can’t eat after a certain time at night? It really is about the pattern and how many and what type of calories you put in your mouth as well as general activity level.

  2. It’s easy to get home from work and begin consuming a large amount of calories. It takes a plan and discipline to ensure calories are spread out over the course of a day and the right kinds of food are in the mix.

About the Author

Mickey Ramirez
Mickey Ramirez

Mickey Ramirez, health enews contributor, is the director of Brand Services. He enjoys kimchi, honesty and a room with a view. He claims to not be a writer, but he occasionally learns information that is just too important to keep to himself.