Daytime eating may benefit mental health

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In a study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, scientists found that meal timing may affect mental health, including levels of depression- and anxiety-related mood.

Shift workers account for up to 20% of the workforce in industrial societies and are directly responsible for many hospital services, factory work, and other essential services.

Shift workers often experience a misalignment between their central circadian clock in the brain and daily behaviors, such as sleep/wake and fasting/eating cycles.

Importantly, they also have a 25 to 40% higher risk of depression and anxiety.

In the study, researchers designed a study that simulated night work and then tested the effects of daytime and nighttime eating versus daytime eating only.

They enrolled 19 participants (12 men and 7 women).

Participants underwent a Forced Desynchrony protocol in dim light for four 28-hour “days,” such that by the fourth “day” their behavioral cycles were inverted by 12 hours, simulating night work and causing circadian misalignment.

Participants were assigned to one of two meal timing groups: the Daytime and Nighttime Meal Control Group, which had meals according to a 28-hour cycle (resulting in eating both during the night and day, which is typical among night workers), and the Daytime-Only Meal Intervention Group, which had meals on a 24-hour cycle (resulting in eating only during the day). The team assessed depression- and anxiety-like mood levels every hour.

The team found that, among participants in the daytime and nighttime eating group, depression-like mood levels increased by 26% and anxiety-like mood levels by 16%.

Participants in the daytime-only eating group did not experience this increase, suggesting that meal timing may influence mood vulnerability.

The findings provide evidence for the timing of food intake as a novel strategy to potentially minimize mood vulnerability in individuals experiencing circadian misalignment, such as people engaged in shift work, experiencing jet lag, or suffering from circadian rhythm disorders.

The team says meal timing is emerging as an important aspect of nutrition that may influence physical health.

Future studies are required to establish if changes in meal timing can help individuals experiencing depressive and anxiety/anxiety-related disorders.

If you care about mental health, please read studies about natural food supplements that may help relieve anxiety, and drinking alcohol for a long time may cause these mental problems.

For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies that vitamin D could help reduce depression symptoms, and results showing Omega-3 fatty acids could protect memory in healthy older people.

The study was conducted by Frank A. J. L. Scheer et al and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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