It is Not What You Eat But When
Does when you eat impact your waistline? For years researchers relied solely on a calorie model for explaining weight gain, but several recent studies are challenging this line of thought after establishing the role of disrupted circadian rhythms in contributing to the problem. As it turns out thermogenesis — the body mechanism for burning energy from food — is directly linked to the light-dark cycles of our circadian rhythms. Because of this discovery, time-restricted eating coordinated with this natural cycle appears to be an effective method for preventing metabolic disorders, along with the diseases associated with these conditions — such as cancer, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. And all without counting calories.
Circadian Rhythms and Health
Truth be told, most of us struggle after the clocks change with daylight savings time. Muddled thinking, tiredness, and disorientation are common after effects that can last for days afterwards. This change can also increase mortality patterns, myocardial infarction, and chronic sleep disruptions.1,2 How can something as small as a one hour shift cause so many issues? It comes down to one simple factor: our circadian rhythm.
Otherwise called the sleep-wake cycle, this is a biological rhythm that is tied to light and dark. As the sun rises, it tells our body to lower melatonin release. When the sun sets, it prompts our body to wind down and increase the hormone so that we can fall asleep. With modern life and the advent of devices, along with artificial and blue lighting, this natural cycle is disrupted and can lead to poor sleep, weight gain, blood sugar problems, heart disease, mood disorders, and a slew of other health issues. Those who work night shifts are particularly at risk.
For years, scientists were unsure as to why this disruption caused weight gain and other health issues. But several recent studies have shed light on the mechanism behind the problem.
The Sleep-Wake Cycle and Metabolism
While we may be aware of the important role light and darkness play on our circadian rhythms, it may come as a surprise that food intake also makes an impact. A region in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) regulates these internal rhythms when it is exposed to light cues from the eyes, thereby synchronizing our sleep-wake cycles. I find it fascinating that almost every cell in our body contains their own biological clock. Think of the SCN as the master coordinator of all these micro-time keepers, otherwise known as peripheral biological clocks.
Beyond light exposure, eating also influences our circadian rhythms. However, most of the effects are through our peripheral biological clocks. We can look at the SCN as the master controller that orchestrates the rhythms associated with hunger and food intake that are custom tailored to our personal periods of activity. A good example of this are nocturnal creatures who consume most of their food at night because this is when they are most active. This timing of food intake in turn impacts their peripheral biological clocks.
For humans, we run into problems when we disrupt our internal rhythm through exposure to artificial light after dark, using devices that generate blue light, night shift work, and eating during periods of low activity, which for most of us is in the evening. Previous studies have shown a direct correlation between poor alignment of food intake and our natural activity cycle with obesity.3 But scientists were unsure of the mechanism at play — until now.
The Health-Boosting Perks of Time-Restricted Eating
Otherwise known as a type of intermittent fasting, time-restricted eating limits food consumption within a specific window of time. This can vary anywhere from four hours to ten. When we practice this method, it can lead to dramatic results.
A 2020 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that when participants limited their food intake within a 6-8 hour window everyday, it reset the immune system; improved blood pressure, resting heart rate, HDL and LDL cholesterol, insulin resistance, and blood sugar levels; and reduced the markers of systemic inflammation and oxidative stress.6
For quite some time now it has been known that intermittent fasting increases life span and exerts an impact on a range of biological systems, including the hormones, but they were not sure as to why.
A new study in the journal Cell Metabolism has found that the practice influences gene expression across more than 22 areas of the body and brain, thereby exhibiting potential benefits for those struggling with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and cancer.4
“By changing the timing of food, we were able to change the gene expression not just in the gut or in the liver, but also in thousands of genes in the brain,” says Professor Satchidananda Panda, senior author and holder of the Rita and Richard Atkinson Chair at the Salk Institute.5
For the study, they gave two groups of mice the same high-calorie diet. Half were given free access to food, while the remaining were restricted to a nine hour feeding window. Seven weeks later, tissue samples were collected from the liver, stomach, lungs, heart, adrenal gland, hypothalamus, kidneys, intestines, and parts of the brain.
Incredibly, the team found that 70 percent of the animal model genes were influenced by time-restricted eating.
Moreover, an impressive 40 percent of genes in the adrenal gland, hypothalamus, and pancreas were positively impacted by intermittent fasting. Why is this important? Because these organs are involved in hormonal regulation that coordinate many functions within the body. When our hormonal system is imbalanced, it can lead to disease — from diabetes and obesity to stress disorders and cardiovascular issues. The findings of the study demonstrate how time-restricted eating can help to treat or even prevent these conditions.
Restore Your Natural Rhythm & Protect Your Heart With These Powerful Remedies
For ultimate health and preventative care, herbal extracts are an outstanding option to support the benefits of time-restricted eating and to encourage a healthy circadian rhythm.
Our potent Sleep Blend formula can assist in resetting damaging, unhealthy sleep patterns by helping you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer with powerful botanicals, including valerian root, hops, German chamomile, passionflower, and magnesium glycinate. It also encourages deep, rejuvenating rest so that you begin the day refreshed and clear. As we have seen, solid sleep habits support proper circadian cycles. Want to learn more? See this post for my top tips and lifestyle habits for healthy sleep-wake cycles.
FINALLY, A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP!
“I’ve been using the Sleep Blend Tincture for about a month and I’m very pleased. I am post menopausal and have had problems sleeping for years. I also had long haul [severe acute respiratory syndrome] and that ruined my sleep as well. I’ve tried pharmaceutical sleeping aids, melatonin and other herbal mixes. I take about 1.5- 1.75 droppers full of your tincture and I sleep deeply and well from 10 pm until about 5 am. Many times I can fall back to sleep after that too.” -Jill
Additionally, if you need an extra level of cardiovascular, blood lipid, and blood sugar support, our Heart Health Blend is formulated with potent extracts of hawthorn, tulsi (holy basil), fenugreek, and bilberry. This formulation regulates blood glucose levels, improves circulation, lowers LDL cholesterol, reduces inflammation, and helps to maintain healthy blood pressure levels. It is also outstanding for supporting vision and the eyes.
My apothecary is a tremendous resource of health and wellness information — including the science behind our formulations and why they are the gold standard of herbal medicines. Visit today to learn more!
Nicole’s Apothecary Products in this Post
- Lévy, L., Robine, J. M., Rey, G., Méndez Turrubiates, R. F., Quijal-Zamorano, M., Achebak, H., Ballester, J., Rodó, X., & Herrmann, F. R. (2022). Daylight saving time affects European mortality patterns. Nature communications, 13(1), 6906. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-34704-9
- Manfredini, R., Fabbian, F., De Giorgi, A., Zucchi, B., Cappadona, R., Signani, F., Katsiki, N., & Mikhailidis, D. P. (2018). Daylight saving time and myocardial infarction: should we be worried? A review of the evidence. European review for medical and pharmacological sciences, 22(3), 750–755. https://doi.org/10.26355/eurrev_201802_14306
- Andrew W McHill and others, Later circadian timing of food intake is associated with increased body fat, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 106, Issue 5, November 2017, Pages 1213–1219, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.117.161588
- Shaunak Deota, Terry Lin, Amandine Chaix, April Williams, Hiep Le, Hugo Calligaro, Ramesh Ramasamy, Ling Huang, Satchidananda Panda. Diurnal transcriptome landscape of a multi-tissue response to time-restricted feeding in mammals. Cell Metabolism, 2023; 35 (1): 150 DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2022.12.006
- Salk Institute. (2023, January 3). Time-restricted eating reshapes gene expression throughout the body: Salk researchers find that timing calorie intake synchronizes circadian rhythms across multiple systems in mice. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 22, 2023 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/01/230103133742.htm
- de Cabo, R., & Mattson, M. P. (2019). Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease. The New England journal of medicine, 381(26), 2541–2551. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMra1905136