By Ben Spencer
Want to lose weight? Eat all your food in an eight-hour time frame – and NEVER snack at night
-Scientists in California said stopping eating after 4pm and sticking to regular meal times helps the body burn calories.
Eating only within an eight-hour window each day could help you shed weight, a study has found.
Limiting the times you eat could reverse obesity and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And it doesn’t even matter whether you have fatty or sugary foods. The eight-hour limit seems to undo the harm done by an unhealthy diet.
Researchers believe that sticking to strict meal times allows the body to predict when it will eat – meaning it is better prepared to burn calories.
Mice fed a high-fat diet within an eight hour time frame – for example between 9am and 5pm – were both healthier and slimmer than those given the same number of calories throughout the whole day.
Even when obese mice had their eating window reduced to nine hours, they were able to drop 5 per cent of their body weight within a few days – while still enjoying the same amount of calories.
The research was carried out at the Salk Institute in California.
The scientists think that allowing the body to predict regular meal times helps it synchronise the digestive system with genes and proteins, preparing it to process food.
It also affects the balance of bacteria found in the gut which control metabolism. The findings, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, add to mounting evidence that when we eat is just as important to health as what we eat.
Professor Satchin Panda, who led the study, said: ‘Most of the advice is, “You have to change nutrition, you have to eat a healthy diet.” But many people don’t have access to healthy diets.
‘So the question is, without access to a healthy diet, can they still practise time-restricted feeding and reap some benefit?’
He added: ‘We found that animals fed within a window of eight to 12 hours had a number of protective and therapeutic health benefits compared with animals allowed to eat the same number of calories from the same food source at any time.’
The protective effects were maintained even during ‘cheat days’ – when the mice were allowed unrestricted food over the weekends.
This is good news for dieters. It suggests that an occasional lapse won’t do any real harm.