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It's Not Just What You Eat, It's When You Eat, Mouse Study Finds

Restricting eating hours didn't cut calorie intake, yet the animals gained less weight

THURSDAY, May 17, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- While most of the research on diet and obesity focuses on what people eat, a new study in mice suggests that more attention should be given to when people eat.

U.S. researchers found that mice that were only allowed to eat for eight hours a day ate as much as mice that were allowed to eat around the clock. Both groups ate a high-fat diet, but the mice with the restricted eating hours gained less weight, had healthier livers and had less inflammation.

The findings, published online May 17 in Cell Metabolism, suggest that eating during too many hours of the day may contribute to obesity.

"Every organ has a clock," lead author Satchidananda Panda, of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., said in a journal news release.

That means there are times of the day that the organs, including the liver, intestines and muscles, operate at peak efficiency and other times when they work less efficiently, Panda said. These cycles are critical for processes ranging from cholesterol breakdown to glucose production. Frequent eating throughout the day and night may throw off these normal metabolic cycles, he suggested in the news release.

"When we eat randomly, those genes aren't on completely or off completely," Panda explained.

The study results indicate that having restricted meal times may help prevent weight gain and that when people eat should be given more attention by obesity researchers.

"The focus has been on what people eat. We don't collect data on when people eat," Panda noted.

While studies involving animals can be useful, they frequently fail to produce similar results in humans.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about weight.

SOURCE: Cell Metabolism, news release, May 17, 2012
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