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Time-Restricted Eating Could Lead To Weight Loss, Scientists Find

A closeup of a beam scale in New York, April 3, 2018.

Credit: Associated Press

Above: A closeup of a beam scale in New York, April 3, 2018.

The holiday season is all about family and food, which might have you concerned about your waistline. Scientists at the Salk Institute in La Jolla have uncovered a science-backed strategy that could help some people keep the pounds off.

And this strategy has to do with biological clocks, says Salk chronobiologist Emily Manoogian.

“The biological clock system is amazing. It’s this internal system you have within your body. Pretty every cell in your body has a molecular clock and it’s going to control each function within each individual cell," Manoogian said.

Examples include times when people naturally wake up in the morning or start to feel cold and shiver around the same time every night.

Manoogian says these clocks get cues on when to reset, so they can work better.

"So light and food are actually two of the biggest cues to tell our bodies the time of day. So when we are talking about light it tends to have the biggest influence on our activity sleep cycles. But food is gonna more directly regulate your metabolism, heart function, pretty much any organ within your abdomen," Manoogian said.

People tend to eat for 15 hours a day, Manoogian said. That means seemingly harmless activities, like getting a midnight snack, could be telling the body work when functions, like digestive systems and metabolism, should be resetting to work properly the next day.

So, Salk scientists decided to conduct a trial with 19 people, who had metabolic or cardiovascular conditions, to eat within a 10-hour time frame for 12 weeks. The strategy is known as time-restricted eating.

"We have found that combining time-restricted eating with medications can give metabolic syndrome patients the ability to better manage their disease," said Satchin Panda, co-corresponding author and professor in Salk's Regulatory Biology Laboratory.

"Unlike counting calories, time-restricted eating is a simple dietary intervention to incorporate, and we found that participants were able to keep the eating schedule," Panda said in a press release.

Participants experienced improved sleep and a three to four percent reduction in body weight, body mass index, abdominal fat and waist circumference. Many also experienced reduced blood pressure and cholesterol.

Salk scientists will be conducting a much larger trial with more than 100 participants to test out the strategy further. But, Manoogian said, it’s a free and simple diet intervention people can try on their own.

Listen to this story by Shalina Chatlani.

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Shalina Chatlani
Science and Technology Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover all things science and technology — from the biotech industry in San Diego to rooftop solar energy on new homes. I'm interested in covering the human side of science and technology, like barriers to entry for people of color or gender equity issues on biotech boards.

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