A Diet Strategy That Counts Time, Not Calories

You can eat whatever you want with time-restricted feeding, just not whenever you want. The weight-loss regime limits eating to a 12-hour window each day and is good for diabetes prevention, longevity and blood pressure

Stop counting calories. It’s the clock that counts.

That’s the concept behind time-restricted feeding, or TRF, a strategy increasingly being studied by researchers as a tool for weight-loss, diabetes prevention and even longevity.

In TRF, you can eat whatever you want and as much as you want—just not whenever you want. Daily food intake should be limited to a 12-hour window, and ideally cut down to eight to 10 hours. But you can pick the hours you want to eat. (Note: This doesn’t mean you should stuff your face with cupcakes. Experts say you should dine as you normally would.)

Despite a lack of dietary restrictions, most people following TRF end up consuming fewer calories and lose weight, according to studies and experts. Preliminary evidence also shows other health benefits of fasting for 12 hours or more, including lower blood pressure and improved glucose levels, and physiological changes linked to slowing the aging process. Researchers believe that when the body kicks into fasting-mode it more efficiently breaks down food and fat, in particular.

Satchidananda Panda, a professor at Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, first tracked the effects of time-restricted feeding in mice. In 2015, he expanded his studies to include humans, using a free research app he created, called “MyCircadianClock,” to follow 156 people. Dr. Panda found that 50% ate over the course of 15 hours and only 10% restricted meals and snacking to the recommended 12 hours or less.

The findings, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, showed that when eight overweight people who naturally ate for 15-plus hours a day restricted their eating to a 10-hour window for 16 weeks, they lost 4% of their weight. A year later, they reported sticking to the plan, even though they didn’t have to, and had kept the weight off.

“All of them said they slept better, and they felt more energetic throughout the day,” said Dr. Panda. “They were actually feeling less hungry.”

TRF studies of mice—which provide the bulk of research on the strategy—have found that the body, when fasting for half a day or more, has more time to produce the components for cellular repair, break down toxins and coloring agents in food, and repair damaged DNA in the skin and stomach lining, according to Dr. Panda. There is also some evidence that TRF may reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Most of the repair processes peak around 12 hours after fasting starts, said Dr. Panda.

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Source: Wall Street Journal