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Many people follow a pattern of constant eating during the day, forcing the body to constantly pump out insulin and metabolize a steady stream of food. It turns out that not only what we eat makes a difference to our health, but when we eat .
A small pilot study published Wednesday in the Journal of Nutritional Science shows that a time-limited feeding approach helps to reduce body fat without counting calories
There were no restrictions on the consumption of the two groups.
At the end of the intervention period, participants took part in the limited feeding group, reduced their meal times by 4 ½ hours, lost body fat, reduced overall caloric intake, and moderately improved metabolic risk factors such as LDL cholesterol. In a 10-week period, the time-limited eating plan completed what many popular diets can not – fat loss.
What is time-limited feeding?
It's not about counting calories.
It's not even about changing what you eat, but cutting down the window of total food during the day. Many of the patients I work with stick to a short-term eating habits by stopping eating at 6:00 PM or focusing on having an early meal and not eating more calories later in the evening. The students at the Surrey University study struggled to keep to the restrictive timing of their meals, although 43 percent said they would continue the program if mealtimes were more flexible.
"As we've seen in these participants, fasting diets are hard to follow and may not always be compatible with family and social life," said lead researcher Dr. Jonathan Johnston in the press release. "We must therefore ensure that they are flexible and supportive of real life, as the potential benefits of such diets are clear."
I also see this challenge in many of my patients, many of whom will combine both intermittent fasting practices – fasting a few non-consecutive days a week – with a few days of restricted feeding as a simpler approach.
Although the results of the current study are early and larger, human studies are required, the results follow previous research that considers fasting as a whole to improve weight and health.
Time-dependent eating has been shown to help reduce body fat and decrease biomarkers such as glucose and cholesterol. Studies have shown less hunger and less total food. Animal and human studies have shown that fasting diets can help reduce body fat, disease risk, and life extension.
Several studies show that the timing of meals counteracts diseases and obesity that affect the quality and quantity of life. Counting calories does not work – we have seen several studies that prove that. Instead, we should not focus on counting calories, but on the hours we actually eat.
Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, is the director of wellness nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute in Cleveland, Ohio and author of "Skinny Liver." Follow her on Twitter @KristinKirkpat . For more diet and fitness advice sign up for our One Small Thing Newsletter.