UT Southwestern Research Shows Eating Times May Affect Body Weight, Circadian Rhythms

UT Southwestern researchers have developed a feeding system reinforcing the notion that the timing of food consumption is more critical for weight loss than caloric intake. Scientists used high-tech sensors and automated feeding equipment to develop a feeding system—it closely mimicked a mammal’s natural eating habits—that addressed factors that may have inhibited previous research.

The new feeding system can be used for longevity studies, which also could “provide the means to address questions about what mechanisms extend lifespan in mammals, and whether it is actually the calorie reduction or the time at which food is consumed that extends lifespan,” said Dr. Joseph S. Takahashi, chairman of neuroscience at UT Southwestern’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute, and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The study found that mice who ate during their normal feeding/active cycles were the only ones to lose weight, despite consuming the same amount of food as the other groups, which were fed during daylight—typically their resting time. Researchers also noted that mice on diets significantly reduced their eating time and were unexpectedly active during the day—revealing previously unknown relationships among feeding, metabolism, and behavior.

Researchers believe in addition to affecting weight, the timing of food consumption affects one’s circadian rhythms and may be the route by which dietary habits impact lifespan. The notion was reinforced by testing the day and night cycles of mice under different feeding schedules, UT Southwestern reported.

Many previous calorie-reduction studies involved only daytime feeding, which is not the active cycle for nocturnal animals like mice, and may have skewed previous findings. The automated system, on the other hand, considers the timing of food intake. Takahashi said in a statement that the new system “addresses previously hidden factors such as lack of sleep, desynchronized circadian rhythms, the amount of food given and consumption rate, all important factors for scientists to consider in future research.”

Posted in News, Research.