When it comes to weight loss, it may be less about what you eat and more about when you eat.
At least, that’s the conclusion of a new study out of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem which found that a carefully timed diet, even one that's high-fat, could help reset the metabolism and cue the body to use up fat reserves for energy to prevent obesity.
Published in The FASEB Journal and released this week, it’s the latest study to stress that fat is not necessarily the enemy.
"Our research shows that the timing of food consumption takes precedence over the amount of fat in the diet, leading to improved metabolism and helping to prevent obesity,” said lead researcher Oren Froy. “Improving metabolism through the careful scheduling of meals, without limiting the content of the daily menu, could be used as a therapeutic tool to prevent obesity in humans."
For the research, four groups of mice were put on different diets for 18 weeks. The first group was put on a high-fat diet on a fixed schedule, eating at the same time, for the same length of time, every day. The remaining three were used as control groups: one followed a low-fat diet on a fixed schedule; another followed an unscheduled low-fat diet; and the final group was fed an unscheduled high-fat diet.
The results showed that while all groups gained weight, mice fed a high-fat diet at regular, fixed times ended up with a lower final body weight than mice put on a low-fat, unscheduled diet and mice who ate a high-fat diet at random, unscheduled times.
Moreover, researchers say the mice fed a high-fat diet at fixed times also exhibited a “unique” metabolic state in which the fats they consumed weren’t stored, but used up for energy.
It’s the latest study to underscore the importance of maintaining a steady rhythm and metabolic cycle via food intake. Research published this spring in the journal Cell likewise found that mice fed a high-fat diet on a restricted schedule were protected against obesity and other metabolic conditions compared to mice who ate the same amount of calories around the clock.
Meanwhile, the jury is out when it comes to the long-held belief that late-night eating can contribute to weight gain, with some camps calling it a myth and others calling it a no-brainer.
What most experts widely agree on, however, is that there are no health benefits to eating extremely late at night during normal sleep times.