A pilot study conducted at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center shows eating all of your meals by mid-afternoon and fasting the rest of the day improves blood sugar control, blood pressure and oxidative stress, even when people don’t change what they eat.
“Ours is the first study in humans that shows consuming all of your calories in a six-hour period provides metabolic advantages compared to eating the exact same amount over 12 hours or more, even if you don’t lose weight,” says Eric Ravussin, Ph.D., associate executive director of Pennington Biomedical, director of the Nutrition Obesity Research Center, and one of the study’s co-authors. “Our data also indicate that our feeding regimen has to be synchronized with the body’s circadian rhythm and our biological clock.”
A world-renowned expert in obesity and type 2 diabetes, Ravussin has spent more than 30 years conducting numerous clinical investigations on measures of energy expenditure, body composition, carbohydrate metabolism and biomarkers of aging in health and disease states.
Courtney Peterson, Ph.D., an adjunct assistant professor at Pennington Biomedical and an assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, was the primary investigator on the study, which has recently been published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
“If you eat late at night, it’s bad for your metabolism,” Peterson says. “Our bodies are optimized to do certain things at certain times of the day, and eating in sync with our circadian rhythms seems to improve our health in multiple ways. For instance, our body’s ability to keep our blood sugar under control is better in the morning than it is in the afternoon and the evening, so it makes sense to eat most of our food in the morning and early afternoon.” Peterson hopes the research will also raise awareness of the role of the body’s internal biological clock — called the circadian system — in health.
Previous studies showed intermittent fasting improves metabolism and health. However, researchers didn’t know whether these effects are simply because people ate less and lost weight. This research is important because it shows—for the first time—the benefits of intermittent fasting are not solely due to eating less.
Pennington Biomedical’s data revealed intermittent fasting has benefits regardless of what you eat. Eating early in the day may be a particularly beneficial form of intermittent fasting. These findings could lead to better ways to help prevent type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
In light of these promising results, Peterson says more research is needed on intermittent fasting and meal timing to find out how they affect health and to figure out what types of approaches are doable for most people.
Click here for information about participating in Pennington Biomedical’s studies.