According to the NIH Director’s Blog, “Why When You Eat Might Be as Important as What You Eat”, about 1/3 of Americans have metabolic syndrome. This is a group of early warning signs for increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. To avoid these problems, dietary recommendations including amount and type of food are part of the standard advise. Based on a three-month pilot study, NIH researchers found another component to include: how food intake is spaced over a 24-hour period. When individuals with metabolic syndrome consumed their usual diet within 10 hour instead of a more usual 14 hour span, their early warning signs improved. This approach to eating creates a longer fasting period and was associated with moderate weight loss, and in some cases lower blood pressure and glucose levels as well as some other metabolic syndrome improvements.
A larger NIH-supported clinical trial will be launched to further evaluate whether in addition to exercising and limiting portion size, extending the fasting time improves metabolic health.
As with all health conditions, people are recommended to check with their healthcare provider before making significant changes to their eating habits. Providers might consider offering pre-diabetic or metabolic syndrome patients advice that includes a 14-hour fast between the last meal of the day and the first meal in the next 24 hour cycle.