Conventional wisdom on staying skinny seems to change with every day of the week—but the metabolism-boosting value of healthy snacking throughout the day is a common thread you’ll find running through just about every piece of diet advice out there.
Until now, that is.
That’s right: New research out of the University of California San Diego is shedding a dubious light on the good sense of “grazing”… with results suggesting that it may not be the foolproof weight loss strategy you think it is.
Fasting Longer Can Keep You Stronger
The study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism just this past May, analyzed two sets of mice of matching gender, age and genetic makeup. Researchers fed both groups a high-fat diet, allowing one group to eat whenever they wanted—consuming roughly half their food during their waking hours in the evening, and the other half as “snacks” throughout the day—while the other group of mice was restricted to eight-hour eating periods each night, and 16-hour fasting periods through the day. Two control groups ate a typical diet, comprised of only 13 percent calories from fat (as compared to 60 percent in the high-fat experimental groups).
After 100 days, the mice that grazed on high-fat food throughout the day not only put on weight, they also developed high cholesterol, high blood sugar, poor motor control and liver damage. Surprisingly, however, the mice that ate the same amount of high-fat food under time restrictions weighed a substantial 28 percent less—and showed none of the diet-related health declines of their continually snacking counterparts.1
What’s more, the time-restricted mice performed better on exercise tests than both the high-fat grazers and the mice on a normal diet, indicating that extended fasting periods don’t just counteract the devastating effects of gut-busting dietary habits—they might actually play a critical role in keeping you fit, no matter how you eat.2
Scheduled Eating Helps Your Body Heal
This study may not be a golden ticket to a junk food free-for-all. But the results do suggest that the numbers on the scale may have less to do with your nutrition—and more to do with your body’s natural metabolic cycles and circadian rhythms—than once thought.
The researchers found that constant eating leads to constant generation and storage of fat, putting stress on your liver and raising blood sugar. Even a few hours of fasting, on the other hand, is enough to initiate fat-burning and cholesterol breakdown—while putting the brakes on glucose production and giving the body a chance to repair itself and generate new DNA. And this, in turn, alleviates disease-promoting inflammation for a leaner and longer life.
Obviously, this marks a serious departure from your usual diet-focused weight loss discussions. Still, while the findings of this particular study could be game changing, it’s too soon to say if the same results will apply to human subjects. But, in the meantime, simply closing up your kitchen a few hours earlier—and doing away with all impromptu snacking, especially on high-fat, sugary foods—might just prove to be the fat-burning breakthrough you’ve been looking for.