A new study, published in the journal Cell, by Salk scientists shows that Time-restricted eating (TRE) provides many health benefits besides weight loss.
Additionally, the study demonstrates that these benefits may vary by gender and age and indicates 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, in humans.
Glucose intolerance is the first step on a slippery slope toward non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and liver cancer – one of the only malignancies whose incidence and mortality rates have climbed in the last 25 to 30 years, rather than decreased.
Additionally, over 40% of Americans are currently diabetic or prediabetic, with the American Diabetes Association estimating that 1.5 million new cases will occur each year.
These trends underscore the critical importance of developing a simple therapy for glucose intolerance.
To break the norm of young male mice, the researchers administered a high-fat, high-sugar diet to male and female mice in two age groups (similar to 20- and 42-year-old people), limiting feeding to nine hours each day.
The researchers conducted studies to see how age and gender affect the consequences of TRE on a variety of health markers, including fatty liver disease, glucose management, muscle mass, performance, and endurance, and survival from sepsis, a life-threatening infection reaction.
Additionally, they took the unusual step of synchronizing their laboratory circumstances to the animals’ circadian clocks (mice sleep during the day and awaken at night), frequently employing night-vision goggles and specialised lighting.
By analysing the tissues of mice given TRE to determine their chemical composition and processes, the researchers discovered that regardless of age, gender, or weight loss profile, TRE provided significant protection against fatty liver disease, a condition affecting up to 100 million Americans and for which no medication has been approved.
After 16 hours of fasting, oral glucose tolerance tests on mice revealed that TRE was associated with a lower increase in blood glucose and a faster return to normal blood sugar levels in young and middle-aged males, as well as a significant improvement in glucose tolerance in young and middle-aged females.
Similarly, middle-aged females and males on TRE were more efficient at reestablishing normal blood sugar levels than control mice that had food available at all times.
This data suggests that TRE could be a low- or no-cost, user-friendly method of preventing or treating diabetes, and it corroborates the lab’s 2019 study on TRE for metabolic syndrome in humans.
Additionally, the researchers discovered that TRE may protect both males and females against sepsis-induced death – a major hazard in intensive care units, particularly during a pandemic.
The researchers tracked survival rates in mice for 13 days after delivering a toxin that created a sepsis-like state. They discovered that TRE protected both male and female mice from dying of sepsis.
Not only did TRE protect against fatty liver disease, diabetes, and sepsis-related death; it also allowed male mice to retain and build muscle mass, as well as improve muscle function (the effect did not hold for females). This conclusion is especially noteworthy for the elderly, as enhanced muscle performance can aid in preventing falls.
This surprise revelation necessitates additional research and raises new questions for the researchers: Does muscle mass increase as a result of TRE’s ability to aid in muscle repair and regeneration? How does TRE affect muscle metabolism and regeneration?
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