Nutritionists have been encouraging people who want to lose weight to just eat less and do a bit more physical exercises. However, recent studies seem to be pointing to another important factor that could be key to a successful dieting program: the timing of your meals.
With the excessive emphasis that was put on the number of calories and on carbohydrates have taken the focus off of the significance of when we eat, as explained by Ruth Patterson, professor at the University of California teaching public health and family medicine.
A recent trend that challenges the traditional three-meals-a-day routine is intermittent fasting. Recent studies have commended the benefits brought by avoiding food for 12 or 15 hours a day, some of which are reduced weight gain in the long-term and better control over the levels of sugar in the blood.
However, the disadvantages are clear, as well: starving yourself for longer periods usually leads to headaches, lack of concentration and a general state of weakness. Moreover, the fasting diet was only tried on mice, and human benefits are still unclear.
According to Patterson, fasting should be done under the direct supervision of a GP, who can guide the patient so they don’t overdo it. When done properly, intermittent fasting can lead to modest weight loss in the long run and improve metabolic health overall.
Patterson’s team is the first to try and see whether or not fasting has the same benefits for humans as it has been found to have in rodents. So far, a large number of women taking part in the study reported that avoiding food for longer hours during night-time resulted in lower and healthier blood sugar levels.
Because the study is still on-going and these are only preliminary conclusions, Patterson is still cautious in pronouncing fasting a sure way to go for weight loss. But his guess is that keeping away from food from 8 at night to 8 at morning would surely improve one’s chances of becoming slimmer.
Patterson is interested in testing this hypothesis because it seems more feasible to avoid food altogether according to a nighttime schedule than following a diet – at least for the majority of people.
Other ways of fasting, such as the 5:2 fasting, which refers to drastically cutting calories two days a week, might not be as easy to implement, as people still need energy for their daily activities.
Patterson also offered good news to people who want to try nighttime fasting, as she explained that cheating once in a while is allowed and would probably not cancel out all your efforts, so a late-dinner with your girlfriends is not a no-no.
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