Australia

Researchers examine time-restricted eating

A man eats a fast food burger
A study exploring how the timing of when people eat can influence the body's natural body clock. (AAP)

In today's modern society, where people eat food and work around the clock, the concept of 'time-restricted' eating has been gaining traction among scientists.

Instead of fasting every second day, what if people enjoyed their food just over a shorter period of time and still loose weight?

Australian researchers are leading a study exploring how the timing of when people eat can influence the body's natural body clock and impact their health.

A recent UK study published in journal Current Biology found eating your meals a bit later can help reset your body clock due to changes in metabolic tissues that control blood sugar levels.

Dr Evelyn Parr from the Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research at Australian Catholic University says it's believed disruptions to the body clock through a lack of sleep, physical activity and diet can be detrimental to overall health and contribute to obesity and diabetes.

The expert in exercise science is studying hundreds of overweight and obese men to measure the impact time-restricted eating has on their metabolic health.

Instead of eating breakfast at 7am, they will eat it at 10am and then cease all eating at 6pm.

This equates to a time window of eight hours as opposed to the average 12-15 hours a person could be consuming food.

"If you think of someone who gets up for work and is eating at around 6.30am and then maybe snacking late into the night before going to bed, there may not even be a very long period, longer than six hours, people aren't consuming food for," Dr Parr said.

The researcher will analyse metabolites, or molecules, in muscle samples taken from the participants every four hours for 24 hours to see the impact of the diet.

"We think that from animal research that the longer time of fasting will turn on what they call some fasting genes that may then improve metabolic health," Dr Parr said.

It's thought this diet approach may be easier and more enjoyable for some rather than restricting them to only 500 calories a day, every other day.

Intermittent fasting diets, such as the 5:2 diet, have been shown to work and are increasing in popularity.

In fact, the CSIRO has launched a new 'Flexi' fasting diet.

A 16-week trial of the weight loss program resulted in an average weight loss of 11 kilograms, improvements in cholesterol, insulin, glucose levels and blood pressure.

In addition to weight loss, psychological improvements were also observed, said CSIRO Research Dietitian Dr Jane Bowen.

However concerns have been raised by dietitians that intermittent fasting is hard to maintain long term and won't suit everyone.

The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) says intermittent fasting is no "magic bullet" and in reality any diet that encourages eating fewer kilojoules than you burn through exercise and daily activities will result in weight loss.

But for lasting, long-term health benefits, the DAA recommends finding an eating pattern people will enjoy and can stick with