Why changing WHEN you eat can produce immediate results

Forget about 'You Are What You Eat'... new research is discovering that you are WHEN you eat. In fact, the secret to better health could be as simple as an early dinnertime.

Is Night Eating Bad?
Is Night Eating Bad?
Claire Benoist

In laboratories around the world, researchers are developing a completely new understanding of how our metabolism works. It seems that our bodies are primed to process food most efficiently when it’s eaten during daylight hours. “We now recognise that our biology responds differently to calories consumed at different times of day,” says Harvard neuroscientist Frank Scheer.

That means a habit as innocuous as eating at night, compared with eating kilojoule-equivalent meals during the day, may cause some people to gain weight. “That late-night bowl of ice-cream may all go towards your waistline,” says University of California, Los Angeles, neuroscientist Christopher Colwell, the author of Circadian Medicine.

Just look at Satchidananda Panda’s mice. A molecular biologist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, Panda is a leading expert on how the timing of food intake affects health. His research team has found that mice that are only allowed to eat during a 9-12 hour period (called a ‘time-restricted diet’) during their active phase are drastically healthier and thinner than mice that are allowed to eat the same amount of food over a 24-hour period.

Encouragingly, when unhealthy, snack-around-the-clock mice are put on a strict schedule that allows them to eat only during their active phase, their rates of diabetes and fatty liver disease improve and their cholesterol levels and inflammation markers diminish. “It’s likely we can reduce the severity [of disease] just by changing when people eat,” Panda points out.

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