For quite a while, health experts have suspected that late night snacking may be particularly unhealthy. However, little scientific proof supported this inkling until recently. A study that was published recently by Researchers at San Diego’s Salk Institute for Biological studies corroborates these claims. In their study, mice who were not allowed to eat all hours were more likely to avoid metabolic problems and obesity more than mice who snacked at all times.
In particular the researches organized the study so that some of the mice were allowed to eat high-fat food at any time, while others were allowed the same diet, but only during an eight hour time span. Additionally, none of the animals were permitted to exercise. The researchers discovered that the mice who were consuming food at all hours gained weight, and became generally unhealthy as they exhibited common symptoms of diabetes. However the mice who only ate on the eight hour schedule did not gain much weight, and did not develop any other medical conditions. This study was conducted in 2012.
In a new study which was published in December, Salk researchers gave a group of mice four different diets including regular mouse kibble, high-fat, high-sucrose, and high-fructose. Within each group, some mice were allowed to snack whenever they chose while others were restricted to feeding times of 15, 12, or 9 hours. Furthermore, the calories consumed for each mice was the same.
At the end of the 8 month long study, the mice who could eat whenever they chose became medically obese, and experienced general metabolic health issues. However, their counterparts who were only allowed to consume food on restricted schedules remained skinny and healthy.
The exact reasons why this time-based eating pattern can prevent illness and obesity is not completely understood currently. However, the Salk scientists believe that the hour at which food is consumed somehow affects the body’s internal clock. Dr. Panda reports that meal time greatly influences the circadian rhythm, and this, in turn, influences the functions of some metabolic genes.
Although the studies have so far been limited to mice, the researches believe the effects to extend to humans as well. The main take away is to be cognizant of the time frame of your eating habits. Try to limit your eating for a day to 12 hours or less. The clock begins to tick from the first bite you take of your daily breakfast.