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When You Eat May Matter More than What You Eat

New research from the Salk Institute suggests that the timing of meals and snacks may influence weight control more than the number of calories you consume. This approach hasn't been investigated in humans yet, but studies with mice have shown that limiting food consumption to an eight to 12 hour period during the day resulted in healthier, slimmer mice even when they were fed a high-fat diet. That wasn't so for other mice fed the same diet but allowed to eat any time of day or night. The research has also shown that allowing the mice to eat only during a specified eight-hour period reversed obesity and diabetes. In their latest study, the Salk researchers assigned nearly 400 mice, some of normal weight and some that were obese, to a variety of diets and differing time restrictions. Results showed that the benefits of time-restricted feeding held true regardless of mouse weight, the type of diet and, to some degree, the length of time restriction. The study showed that mice limited to eating during a window of 9 to 12 hours gained less weight than the "controls" that were allowed to eat at will, even though both groups consumed the same number of daily calories. The time-restricted mice also developed more lean muscle mass than the mice that ate without restrictions.