Nutrition scientists have long debated the best diet for optimal health. But now some experts believe that it’s not just what we eat that’s critical for good health, but when we eat it.
A growing body of research suggests that our bodies function optimally when we align our eating patterns with our circadian rhythms, the innate 24-hour cycles that tell our bodies when to wake up, when to eat and when to fall asleep.
Studies show that chronically disrupting this rhythm — by eating late meals or nibbling on midnight snacks, for example — could be a recipe for weight gain and metabolic trouble.
That is the premise of a new book, “The Circadian Code,” by Satchin Panda, a professor at the Salk Institute and an expert on circadian rhythms research.
Panda argues that people improve their metabolic health when they eat their meals in a daily 8- to 10-hour window, taking their first bite of food in the morning and their last bite early in the evening.
This approach, known as early time-restricted feeding, stems from the idea that human metabolism follows a daily rhythm, with our hormones, enzymes and digestive systems primed for food intake in the morning and afternoon.
Many people, however, snack and graze from roughly the time they wake up until shortly before they go to bed. Panda has found in his research that the average person eats over a 15-hour or longer period each day, starting with something like milk and coffee shortly after rising and ending with a glass of wine, a late night meal or a handful of chips, nuts or some other snack shortly before bed.
* The New York Times