NEW YORK — Eating meals earlier in the day can be better for your health and may also prevent excessive weight gain, a new study explains. Researchers in New York discovered that consuming food within the first eight hours after waking may help counteract weight gain, improve blood sugar fluctuations, and reduce periods of high blood sugar — thereby potentially preventing diabetes and maintaining good metabolic health.
Dr. Joanne Bruno, the study’s lead author and an endocrinologist at New York University, explains that consuming most of one’s calories earlier in the day shortens the time that blood sugar levels are elevated. The team’s research shows that just one week of following this diet strategy reduces unhealthy changes in blood sugar and reduces the time that the blood sugar stays above normal levels.
“This type of feeding, through its effect on blood sugar, may prevent those with prediabetes or obesity from progressing to Type 2 diabetes,” says Dr. Bruno in a media release.
The NYU team examined a pattern known as early time-restricted feeding (eTRF), which largely entails eating within the first eight hours of the day. Previous studies have suggested this intermittent fasting method may improve cardiometabolic health and regulate blood sugar levels.
However, the team aimed to discern whether these improvements resulted from weight loss or the fasting strategy itself. This study is the first to evaluate the effects of eTRF on glycemia and inflammation independent of weight loss.
Scroll down to see 3 risks tied to intermittent fasting
Researchers contrasted eTRF (80% of calories consumed before 1 p.m.) with a standard feeding pattern (50% of calories consumed after 4 p.m.) among 10 participants with prediabetes and obesity. The patients followed either eTRF or the standard feeding pattern for the first seven days before switching to the other strategy for the subsequent seven days. To determine the weight-independent effects of the strategies, food was provided to match the patients’ caloric needs for weight maintenance. Participants also wore continuous glucose monitors throughout the study.
“We decreased the time these individuals were having high blood sugar levels with just one week of eTRF feeding,” says study senior author Jose Aleman, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, & Metabolism at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. “The findings show that eating a majority of one’s calories earlier in the day reduces the time that the blood sugar is elevated, thereby improving metabolic health.”
The team noted that participants’ weights remained stable throughout the study. Furthermore, compared to the usual eating pattern group, eTRF led to a decreased mean amplitude of glycemic excursion and less time with high blood sugar levels. The periods with blood sugar levels within the normal range were similar for both the eTRF and usual feeding pattern groups.
“Based on this data, eTRF may be a helpful dietary strategy for diabetes prevention,” Dr. Bruno concludes. “Further studies are needed to understand the true overall benefit of these intervention strategies.”
The findings were presented at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in Chicago.
3 health risks tied to intermittent fasting
The diet could lead to problems conceiving children:
A recent study found that intermittent fasting could trigger problems for couples looking to conceive a child. Researchers at the University of East Anglia focused on the reproductive processes of zebrafish and discovered that there was a negative effect on egg and sperm quality after the fish returned to normal eating.
After the diet, females saw an increase in the number of offspring they produced but saw a drop in egg and offspring quality. The male’s sperm also decreased in quality. Scientists commonly use zebrafish as a comparative tool for humans because the two species are actually very similar on a genetic level.
Intermittent fasting linked to premature death:
Researchers at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center found that eating only one meal per day is associated with an increased risk of death in American adults 40 and older.
According to the scientists behind this report, skipping meals can have harmful effects to your health. While you might enjoy dropping a few extra pounds, skipping breakfast is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease mortality. Similarly, missing lunch or dinner can lead to a higher risk of death in general.
The diet may lead to eating disorders among young people:
In 2022, researchers from the University of Toronto linked intermittent fasting to dangerous eating disorder attitudes and behaviors among both adolescents and young adults.
The study encompassed data from over 2,700 adolescents and young adults originally collected by the Canadian Study of Adolescent Health Behaviors. Researchers reported finding a connection between intermittent fasting and all disordered eating behaviors for women. That includes binge-eating, as well as compensatory behaviors like vomiting and compulsive exercise. For men, those who tried the diet routine were also more likely to report compulsive exercise.
South West News Service writer Stephen Beech contributed to this report.