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Smart Health | Timing matters

Closing the “window” on eating may have health benefits


IT’S WELL-KNOWN that what you eat impacts health. For example, research shows that a healthful diet is based on foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes, while limiting trans fats, alcohol, processed grains and sugary foods and beverages. Eating this way lowers the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and many other conditions. 

Now, research also supports a healthy role for when you eat, too. Scientists recently have studied a strategy called time-restricted feeding, also known as intermittent fasting. Using this approach, all daily eating is contained within a specific time window during the day. 

A recent study from the University of Florida showed that overweight adults age 65 or older lost weight when they reduced their feeding window from more than 12 hours to eight hours a day, without tracking calories. 

Clinical studies also have shown that time-restricted eating improves “bad” LDL cholesterol and blood pressure. A study in fruit flies showed that time-restricted feeding increases longevity. These studies demonstrate that time-restricted feeding has the potential to improve overall health and longevity. 

Early evidence supports that lifestyle timing is important and suggests that limiting eating to an approximately eight- to 10-hour window may promote better health. However, before making big changes to your eating or lifestyle habits, you should consider how any changes will fit into your daily routine in the long term. Eating has cultural and social importance, too. 

A lot of advice given on social media platforms may not be evidence-based, so it’s important to consult your physician and a registered dietitian. 

Incorrect use of a time-restricted diet could promote an unhealthy relationship with food or disordered eating patterns. 

ALEX KEEBLE is a doctoral student in the UK Center for Muscle Biology; JEAN FRY is a registered dietitian and assistant professor in the UK Department of Athletic Training and Clinical Nutrition; JULIE PENDERGAST is assistant professor studying chronobiology in the UK College of Arts and Sciences.

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