Time-Restricted Eating: The Key to Weight Loss?

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ScaleThis article originally appeared on Live in the Now.

Most people allow themselves access to food for 12 hours or more each day, but a new study indicates that cutting back on this timespan may hold the secret to natural weight loss.

Limiting Eating to the Hours Between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Has Benefits

The research at the University of Alabama investigated the influence a person’s eating schedule has on weight and fat burning. It found when people ate their last meal at mid-afternoon and didn’t eat again until breakfast the next morning, they experienced several advantages. Their hunger swings decreased, and they had beneficial changes in fat and carbohydrate burning patterns, effects that may help with weight management.

Time-restricted eating that follows the pattern in the study equates to either eating an early dinner or skipping it. The authors explained the body has circadian rhythms that regulate various physiological functions. Since this system causes many aspects of metabolism to be at their peak in the morning, eating earlier in the day brings people in alignment with their internal clock.

The study consisted of following 11 overweight men and women over four days of eating between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., as well as four days of eating between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. All the participants tried both schedules and consumed the same amount of calories both times. Measurements were taken on their fat burning, calorie burning and appetite.

The findings showed the time-restricted eating didn’t affect the number of calories burned, but it did decrease hunger swings and boost fat burning during several hours at night. In addition, it enhanced metabolic flexibility, which is the capacity to alternate between burning fats and burning carbohydrates.

“Eating only during a much smaller window of time than people are typically used to may help with weight loss,” said Courtney Peterson, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences at UAB. “We found that eating between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. followed by an 18-hour daily fast kept appetite levels more even throughout the day, in comparison to eating between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., which is what the average American does.”

The results were presented at The Obesity Society Annual Meeting at Obesity Week 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Time-Restricted Eating Helps Prevent Obesity Even When an Unhealthy Diet Is Consumed

A 2014 mice study published in Cell Metabolism shed more light on the benefits of time-restricted eating, as it showed the practice helped prevent and reverse obesity and related metabolic dysfunction. An especially encouraging finding was that the positive effects held when the mice ate a high-fat, high-fructose or combination high-fat, high-fructose diet. Furthermore, when the mice were permitted to get off the time-restricted diet on weekends, the benefits persisted.

These results indicate that the practice can help promote wellness even when the diet isn’t ideal and even when it isn’t followed every day of the week. The researchers concluded the habitual limitation of eating hours had value for obesity, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and fatty liver disease.

Prominent members of the natural health community recommend time-restricted eating due to its broad health benefits. According to Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, these include reduced inflammation, increased detoxification, enhanced immunity, improved brain function, decreased risk of cancer and minimized effects of aging.

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