It’s becoming a popular story. Maybe you shouldn’t worry so much about what you eat. Instead you should focus on when you eat. Meal timing is a hot concept among health writers right now. Professor Satchin is selling a new book, The Circadian Code, with a promise to “transform your health.” The New York Times ran a splashy story on the subject this week.
How far can the science take you with this trend before the hype takes over?
Circadian rhythms are actually quite important for the normal function of a healthy body. When your work or travel disrupts those rhythms, your health suffers a bit. Shift work, for example, can raise your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and a range of other health problems.
And meal timing can be a factor for healthy nutrition and metabolism. True enough, the cliché about breakfast being the most important meal of the day is a little overblown. But the metabolic response to eating larger meals late in the day does indeed seem to be less healthy, compared to meals earlier in the day.
With a bit of science in the bag, a bestselling diet book almost writes itself. If you don’t think The Circadian Code will solve all your problems, then maybe you’d prefer the 16:8 intermittent fasting concept. “Watch the pounds disappear without watching what you eat!” – or at least that’s the promise.
But unfortunately, when you mix a bit of science with a bunch of hype, reality fades away. Nutrition professor Kelly Pritchett offers a more sensible view:
I would not recommend this approach to my clients as I don’t think it’s sustainable for the long term. You have to ask yourself: Do I want to follow this plan for the rest of my life? If the answer is no, then it’s not a sustainable approach to weight loss or healthy eating.
In the end, it’s worth knowing that big meals late in the day are not a healthy pattern to fall into. And if you want help to find a healthier pattern of eating for the rest of your life, seek the advice of good registered dietitian.
Click here for more from the New York Times and here for a study of the metabolic effects of meal timing. For a detailed scientific statement from the American Heart Association, click here.
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