Scientists from the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that early time-restricted eating could help people lose weight and improve blood pressure.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that includes hours or days of no or minimal food consumption without deprivation of essential nutrients.
Evidence from decades of animal and human research points to the wide-ranging health benefits of intermittent fasting.
It is unclear how effective intermittent fasting is for losing weight and body fat, and the effects may depend on the eating time.
Time-restricted eating is a type of eating plan that focuses on the timing of eating.
Instead of limiting the types of food or the number of calories that people consume, this plan restricts the amount of time they can spend eating.
In this study, researchers aimed to compare time-restricted eating with eating over a period of 12 or more hours.
They wanted to see whether practicing time-restricted eating by eating early in the day (early time-restricted eating) is more effective for weight loss, fat loss, and heart and metabolic health than eating over a period of 12 or more hours.
Adults aged 25 to 75 years with obesity and who received weight-loss treatment took part in a 14-week experiment.
All people received weight-loss treatment and were assigned to early time-restricted eating plus energy reduction (8-hour eating window from 7:00 to 15:00) or control eating (control group) plus energy reduction (≥12-hour window).
The team found the early time-restricted eating plus energy reduction intervention was more effective for losing weight but did not affect body fat.
The effects of early time-restricted eating plus energy reduction were equivalent to reducing calorie intake by an additional 214 kcal/d.
The early time-restricted eating plus energy reduction intervention also improved diastolic blood pressure and mood disturbances.
All other heart and metabolic health factors, food intake, physical activity, and sleep outcomes were similar between groups.
In a further analysis of 59 completers, early time-restricted eating plus energy reduction was also more effective for losing body fat and trunk fat than control + energy reduction.
Based on the findings, the team suggests that early time-restricted eating was more effective for losing weight and improving diastolic blood pressure and mood than eating over a window of 12 or more hours at 14 weeks.
The research was published in JAMA Internal Medicine and conducted by Humaira Jamshed et al.
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