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Eating by the clock has significant health benefits, study finds

 Health benefits of IF stretch beyond calorie restriction and weight loss. [iStockphoto]

Eating within a ten-hour window has been linked to increased energy, improved mood and decreased hunger, according to recent findings from the largest UK community science study, as reported by King’s College London researchers at the European Nutrition Conference.

One common weight-management strategy is intermittent fasting (IF), which is restricting food consumption to a set period. A ten-hour eating window, constituting a 14-hour fasting period, demonstrates this regimen. For instance, if you eat your first bite at 9 am, you must eat your last bite at 7 pm.

Some IF supporters support even stricter eating windows like six hours. Still, the study abstract emphasises that even a ten-hour window can provide significant health benefits, like improved mood, more energy and less hunger.

According to Dr Sarah Berry, from the School of Life Course & Population Sciences and chief scientist at ZOE, this was the largest study outside of a tightly controlled clinic to show that intermittent fasting can improve your health in a real-world setting.

She expressed her excitement about the findings, highlighting that a ten-hour eating window is manageable for many. 

“We found for the first time that those who practised time-restricted eating but were not consistent day to day, did not have the same positive health effects as those who were dedicated every day,” she says.

During the core intervention period of three weeks, 37,545 individuals using the ZOE Health app participated, with instructions to maintain their regular eating habits for the first week before switching to a ten-hour eating window for the next two weeks. 

Over 36,231 participants continued to participate after this point and 27,371 were classified as highly engaged. These participants were mostly female (78 per cent) and had a mean age of 60 and a BMI of 25.6.

Remarkably, people with longer eating windows before the intervention observed greater improvements in their health outcomes.

Kate Bermingham PhD, associated with King’s and ZOE, emphasised the significance of eating patterns for overall health. 

“This study adds to the growing body of evidence showing the importance of how you eat. The health impact of food is not just what you eat, but the time at which you choose to consume your meals and eating window is an important dietary behaviour that can be beneficial for health. Findings show that we don’t need to be eating all the time. Many people will feel satiated and even lose weight if they restrict their food to a ten-hour window,” Bermingham says.

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