Time-restricted eating may protect your liver health, blood sugar

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Time-restricted eating (TRE), a dietary regimen that restricts eating to specific hours, has garnered increased attention in weight-loss circles.

In a new study from Salk Institute, researchers found time-restricted eating confers multiple health benefits besides weight loss.

Their findings suggest that TRE may be a valuable intervention for type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and liver cancer, and even infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

Glucose intolerance is the first step on a slippery slope to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and liver cancer—one of the few cancers whose incidence and death rates have increased, rather than declined, in the past 25 to 30 years.

Further, over 40% of Americans are already diabetic or prediabetic, with the American Diabetes Association predicting 1.5 million new cases each year.

These trends make finding a simple treatment for glucose intolerance a major priority.

In the study, the team fed a high-fat, high-sugar diet to male and female mice of two age groups (equivalent to 20- and 42-year-old humans), restricting eating to nine hours per day.

The researchers found that regardless of age, sex or weight loss profile, time-restricted eating strongly protected against fatty liver disease, a condition that affects up to 100 million Americans and for which no medicine has been approved.

Oral glucose tolerance tests given to mice after 16 hours of fasting showed that time-restricted eating was associated with a lower increase in blood glucose and a faster return to normal blood sugar levels with a big improvement in glucose tolerance.

This finding indicates that time-restricted eating may be a low- or no-cost, user-friendly way to prevent or treat diabetes, and supports the results of the lab’s 2019 study on time-restricted eating for metabolic syndrome in humans.

The researchers also found that time-restricted eating may protect both males and females from sepsis-induced death—a particular danger in ICUs, especially during the pandemic.

Time-restricted eating didn’t just protect against fatty liver disease, diabetes, and death from sepsis; it even enabled male mice to preserve and add muscle mass and improve muscle performance (the effect did not hold for females).

This finding is particularly important for the elderly, for whom improved muscle performance can help guard against falls.

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The study is published in Cell Reports. One author of the study is Satchidananda Panda.

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