Study: Time Restricted Eating Has Major Health Benefits

A new study from the famous Salk Institute shows that time-restricted eating (TRE), which is popular as a weight loss strategy, also has significant health benefits – from disease prevention to helping people survive infections like COVID-19. While some of the benefits are gender and age dependent, the shocking results suggest that TRE could be used as an inexpensive treatment for some of the most common conditions affecting Americans, as it improves glucose metabolism, boosts immune response, and lowers inflammation.

We know that intermittent fasting – another way of thinking about a limited-time diet where you eat all of your calories during a limited window of time and then fast for the rest of the day or night – can help people lose weight. But this new study found that it also has health benefits that are diverse and significant. Using TRE as a strategy can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, and even liver cancer, and there is some evidence that it may help treat infectious diseases like COVID-19.

Time-Restricted Eating (TRE) is defined as a diet that restricts eating to certain times of the day and then fasts the rest of the time. TRE has become extremely popular for weight loss because it lowers blood sugar levels during Lent and forces the body to pull fat from storage to use as fuel as soon as the body has the available energy (such as glycogen, which is found in the liver, muscles and other cells) is used up.

Study shows that time-restricted eating helps regulate blood sugar levels

In the study, researchers fed male and female mice a high-fat and high-sugar diet appropriate for the ages of 20- and 42-year-old humans and restricted their food intake to nine hours. They looked at how TRE affected fatty liver disease, glucose regulation, muscle mass, performance and endurance, and sepsis survival, and were curious to see if there was a difference in benefits for male and female mice. The study also drew on the animals’ circadian clocks – since mice generally sleep during the day and are active and eat at night (which is why they are rarely seen in your kitchen).

Here are the surprising results: TRE offered significant protection against fatty liver disease, regardless of the age or sex of the animals tested. This is significant because fatty liver disease affects more than 80 million Americans alone, according to the CDC.

Eating limited time helps regulate blood sugar and glucose tolerance

“We were surprised that the females who received TRE were not protected from weight gain, but still showed metabolic benefits, including less fatty liver and better controlled blood sugar,” said one of the study authors, Amandine Chaix, who worked at the Salk laboratory. who conducted the research and is now Assistant Professor in the Nutrition & Integrative Physiology Department at the University of Utah. She was quoted in Cell Reports magazine.

TRE (the study named for Time-Restricted Feeding in TRF) has been linked to better blood sugar tolerance than the mice in the control group, making this strategy an effective, drug-free method for treating prediabetes or metabolic syndrome, which, according to the CDC, has reached epidemic proportions in the United States.

The mice on the restricted feeding schedule also had better motor performance, body composition, metabolic health, and general fitness, although the male mice showed more improvement in these areas than the female mice. The study author concluded, “In men, TRF improved all metabolic and performance parameters tested, regardless of age, suggesting that TRF could improve health and longevity even with a Western diet.”

The conclusion in Cell Response explains, “Future studies on lifelong TRF will test this hypothesis. Finally, we show that ingesting TRF in middle-aged male mice can increase survival in a septic challenge, with a trend in females. This is particularly relevant in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in which this paper was written, as poor metabolic health is the main risk factor for severe COVID-19. “

Intermittent fasting can improve the immune system response

Studies have shown that, according to Dr. Jason Fung, author of Life in the Fasting Lane and The Cancer Code, the body’s natural immune response can be activated when not eating for long periods of time. Dr. Fung has written extensively on fasting and immunity, as well as how fasting can enhance the body’s response to killing cancer cells, viruses, and other lurking dangers to which the immune system must respond on a daily basis.

Intermittent fasting has been shown in the past to aid the body in healing by triggering what is known as “autophagy,” or the self-cleaning mechanism that allows immune cells to spread throughout the body and look for possible invaders, including damaged ones or dead cells, broken parts that need to be discarded, and some of these could be from viruses and bacterial infections.

“Autophagy plays a key role in fighting viruses,” said Dr. Fung across from The Beet. “It’s like a cleaning crew coming in and scrubbing the whole place while you sleep. When the immune system sees signs of an invading virus or infection, it rings the immune system’s alarm bells and begins to produce antibodies that do so. “Recognize” this intruder and fight it off.

Fasting or restricting meal times to a small specific window of time eliminates all of the common distractions associated with eating so that the immune system can do its necessary house cleaning and monitoring work, explains Dr. Fung, meaning the immune system does not have to deal with potentially toxic elements or harmful bacteria that could be ingested with your food, and can focus on the real dangers such as cancer growth or viral infections that may be present.

The Salk Institute study also showed that the mice in the TRF group were able to survive the dangers of sepsis, a potentially fatal infection-related disease in which the body’s inflammatory response can trigger a runaway chain of events, particularly in the fight against serious cases of COVID-19.

Bottom line: Time-limited eating offers health benefits beyond weight loss.

To improve blood sugar tolerance, reduce metabolic syndrome symptoms and even reduce inflammation, and potentially help treat COVID-19 symptoms, it may be worthwhile to consume time-restricted meals, according to a new study examining the effects on male and female mice fed a Western diet. However, the results showed different benefits for men and women, so further study is needed.

For more great content like this, check out The Beet’s health and nutrition articles.

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