Researchers have found that a 10-hour time-restricted eating intervention, when combined with traditional medications, resulted in weight loss, reduced abdominal fat, lower blood pressure and cholesterol for participants.
The findings suggest that time-restricted eating could be a new treatment option for people with metabolic syndrome who are at risk for developing life-altering and costly medical conditions such as diabetes.
What is metabolic syndrome?
A person is thought to have metabolic syndrome if he or she has a large waist circumference plus two or more of the following: high blood triglycerides (blood fats), high blood pressure, elevated fasting blood glucose and low HDL (good) cholesterol. The condition is thought to double the risk of heart attack and increase the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes by fivefold.
Lifestyle interventions to treat metabolic syndrome, such as adopting a healthy diet and increasing physical exercise, are difficult to maintain and, even when combined with medication, are often insufficient to fully manage the disease.
Now, in a collaborative effort, researchers from the Salk Institute and the UC San Diego School of Medicine found that combining time-restricted eating with medications can give people with metabolic syndrome the ability to better manage their disease. Unlike counting calories, time-restricted eating is a simple dietary intervention and participants were able to keep the eating schedule.
What is time-restricted eating?
Time-restricted eating (eating all calories within a consistent 10-hour window) supports a person’s circadian rhythms and can maximize health benefits. Circadian rhythms are the 24-hour cycles of biological processes that affect nearly every cell in the body.
Increasingly, scientists are finding that erratic eating patterns can disrupt this system and increase the risk for metabolic syndrome and other metabolic disorders causing symptoms such as increased abdominal fat, elevated cholesterol or triglycerides and high blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Eating and drinking everything (except water) within a consistent 10-hour window allows your body to rest and restore for 14 hours at night. Your body can also anticipate when you will eat so it can prepare to optimize metabolism, say the researchers.
About the study
The pilot study included 19 participants (13 men and 6 women) diagnosed with metabolic syndrome who self-reported eating during a time window of more than 14 hours per day. Additionally, 84 percent of participants were taking at least one medication to control LDL cholesterol or blood pressure.
Participants logged during the three-month, 10-hour time-restricted eating intervention.
Participants did not report any adverse effects during the study. To reduce food intake to the 10-hour window, most participants delayed their first meal and advanced their last meal each day, so meals were not skipped. Although calories were not recommended to be reduced during the study, some participants did report eating less, likely due to the shorter eating window.
Overall, participants experienced improved sleep as well as a 3-4 percent reduction in body weight, body mass index, abdominal fat and waist circumference. Major risk factors for heart disease were diminished as participants showed reduced blood pressure and total cholesterol. Blood sugar levels and insulin levels also showed a trend toward improvement.
"Metabolism is closely linked with circadian rhythms, if we can optimize circadian rhythms then we might be able to optimize the metabolic system”, said the researchers.
The scientists are currently conducting a clinical trial funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to examine the benefits of time-restricted eating in a larger group of more than 100 participants with metabolic syndrome.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.