Time Restricted Feeding Improves Health and Longevity

Much has been presented in the media concerning time restricted feeding and the impact it may have on aspects of health. Time restricted feeding refers to a feeding window through which one consumes all of their nutrients for a 24-hour period. The most groundbreaking research around this concept took place in the lab of Dr. Satchin Panda. In the lab, they looked at the differences between two groups of genetically identical mice, feeding on the exact same food quality and quantity, but one group within a restricted time period and the other group feeding at will with no restriction. The researcher and his team found that the mice who were freely feeding, suffered from a number of diseases including heart disease and metabolic disorders resulting in a shorter lifespan, while the time restricted feeding mice were protected from those maladies.

By allowing the body an extended period of time to rest and repair from the processes of digestion, the emerging science suggests that this time restricted feeding pattern impacts a number of organ systems for the better. One research study assessed the effects of a ten-hour feeding window on adults over a period of 18 weeks. The participants were not asked to restrict their caloric intake or food choices in any way, just to begin eating at one point and suspend eating ten hours from that point until the next day. The participants reportedly lost weight, improved their sleep, had fewer digestive difficulties, and even less joint pain. Further research found that there were increases in muscle mass, reductions in fat mass, reduced blood pressure, reductions in LDL cholesterol and improved glucose control and metabolic health resulting from time restricted feeding.

Dr. Satchin Panda and colleagues conducted research to ascertain current time-oriented eating patterns in adults and found that 50% of the participants ate within 15 hours or longer, while only 10% of the people ate within 12 hours of time or less. To make an initial adjustment in eating patterns, one can shoot for a 12-hour window to begin to produce the many health benefits. That would mean for example, if breakfast is at 8am, no food is ingested after 8PM. A goal might be to transition over time to a 10-hour window that still allows for engaging in meals with loved ones at least once per day. Digestion takes at least 5 hours for completion; therefore, the recommendation is to avoid eating 2 to 3 hours before sleeping to enhance both sleep quality and digestion.

We know that ingesting nutrient dense foods—fruits, vegetables, lean protein—contributes to optimal immune functioning and disease prevention, similarly, caloric restriction—eating slightly fewer calories to create a deficit—is associated with decreased morbidity and increased lifespan. We can now add a third, rather manageable adjustment to our healthy eating practices with time restricted feeding, as we aspire to live and function at peak performance in each stage of our life.