If you’re a foodie like me, then you try to experience as many delicious foods as possible throughout the day without gaining weight. This can prove to be a difficult task, but one of the keys I’ve found to be most effective is eating on a regular schedule. Turns out, this now has some scientific backing thanks to a new study validating the health benefits of scheduled eating.
In an effort to confirm whether or not weight gain may be caused in part by eating on an odd schedule, scientists conducted a study involving the eating patterns of mice. They fed two groups of mice a high-fat diet, but allowed one group to eat whenever they wanted. And not-so surprisingly, this group gained weight.
For the second group of mice, scientists restricted their allotted meal times to an eight-hour window. As a result, these mice did not gain weight even though they consumed the same amount of calories or more than the mice with an un-restricted eating schedule.
Over the course of the 18-week study, the mice that were time-restricted experienced fewer negative effects on their high-fat diet, and even saw an increase in metabolism when compared to the un-restricted mice. The restricted group also reportedly gained 28 percent less weight and suffered less liver damage.
These findings, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, suggested that having set meal times may be an effective way to stave off weight loss.
Satchidananda Panda of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California, said this may be because ‘every organ runs on a clock, which means there are certain times when our intestines, muscles and other organs work at their peak efficiency. And there other times when they’re sleeping, in a sense.’
These metabolic cycles, he says, are critical for processes such as cholesterol breakdown, and should be turned on when we’re eating and off when we’re not. According to Panda, when people or mice eat frequently throughout the day and night, it can throw off normal metabolic cycles.
Although the study showed convincing results, researchers were quick to acknowledge that their primary subjects were mice and that more studies are needed in this area on humans to prove anything conclusive.
Panda also noted that there’s reason to believe that the eating patterns of our society as a whole have seen shifts in recent years, with more people staying up late, watching TV, and falling into the tendency of mindless snacking.
This study is music to my ears – and my stomach. It turns out there was a method to my madness. Perhaps I can maintain my indulgences as long as I’m not eating them outside of my normal meal times. So for now, my after-dinner ice cream habit isn’t going anywhere.
May 18th, 2012