If You're Trying to Lose Weight, When You Eat May Matter Just as Much as What You Eat, New Study Suggests

When we're trying to be health-conscious, your natural instinct is to change what you eat, right? Well, a new study has found that when trying to lose weight, when you eat may be as important as what you eat. The research conducted by Dr. Satchidananda Panda, an associate professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, found that mice who had restricted eating hours weighed less than those who did not, with the types of foods they consumed not even mattering, as this still held true when the mice in both groups ate the same amount. The mice in the time-restricted feeding group also had lower cholesterol and more ideal muscle masses than the others — and this is even with them being allowed "cheat" days on weekends!

This study is not alone in its findings, though, as Dr. Panda has conducted numerous studies related to time-restricted food consumption. In December, he published a study where obese mice were fed unhealthy diets, with one group having no time restrictions, and the other only able to eat for a set number of hours in the day. The two groups could eat as much as they wanted and both ate unhealthily. What Dr. Panda found was that the more time food was restricted, the more weight the mice lost. This is explained by the mice's circadian rhythms, as their bodies were designed to eat at times when their metabolism is highest. In fact, eating all throughout the day without having a stopping point damaged the mice, since it led to their livers having to constantly process glucose; they had higher blood-sugar levels and weren't able to break down cholesterol nearly as well as the restricted group.

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Now, whether these research findings can be applied to humans is still up for debate, and the results so far have been "very mixed," according to Christopher Ochner, a director of research development at Mt. Sinai Hospital. He has said that it comes down to the basic math of calories eaten/calories burned and when you consume those calories doesn't really matter.

And yet, there have been some diets and research findings that suggest your eating times could actually make a difference in your health. One such example would be The 8-Hour Diet, partly based on the research conducted by Dr. Panda, which limits food consumption to eight hours a day. In order to provide proof of concept, the diet's creators put 150 volunteers on the diet and they found that most had indeed lost weight. But whether they were able to keep off the weight, or whether this would work on a larger scale, remains to be seen.

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Whether or not this principle of restricted eating fully applies to humans hasn't been answered with foolproof yet, but there have been other researchers who have found similar results as Dr. Panda and been able to provide evolutionary explanations, so there is probably something to this idea. As to whether you should start to limit your eating to a certain time of day, I'm going to say that for now, it's up to you.

Images: PlantBasedJoy/Instagram; Getty (1), Giphy (2)