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Shift Working: Eating At This Time Could Add Additional Burden On Your Mind

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Jiya Saini
Jiya Saini is a Journalist and Writer at Revyuh.com. She has been working with us since January 2018. After studying at Jamia Millia University, she is fascinated by smart lifestyle and smart living. She covers technology, games, sports and smart living, as well as good experience in press relations. She is also a freelance trainer for macOS and iOS, and In the past, she has worked with various online news magazines in India and Singapore. Email: jiya (at) revyuh (dot) com

Using food to beat the blues? The time of meals may have an impact on mood, including levels of depression and anxiety, according to the latest report.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a founding member of the Mass General Brigham healthcare system, conducted a study that replicated night work and compared the effects of daytime and nighttime versus daytime-only eating.

Researchers discovered that among individuals in the daytime and midnight eating groups, anxiety- and depressive-like mood levels rose by 16% and 26%, respectively.

This rise was not observed in the group of participants who only ate during the day, indicating that meal timing may affect mood vulnerability. The findings are presented in a paper published in PNAS.

The results, according to co-corresponding author Frank A. J. L. Scheer, offer new “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.” However, more research is needed to determine whether or not adjusting shift workers’ meal schedules can mitigate the negative emotional effects of working irregular hours. Our research adds a new “player” to the equation till then: the timing of our food intake affects our mood.

In industrial societies, shift workers make up to 20% of the labor force and are directly in charge of various healthcare services, manufacturing work, and other critical services. The brain’s core circadian clock and everyday activities, such as sleep/wake and fasting/eating cycles, are frequently out of sync with shift workers. They also run a 25 to 40% higher risk of developing anxiety and depression, which is significant.

Our meal timing intervention may be helpful for shift workers as well as people with circadian disruption, such as those who suffer from jet lag, according to co-corresponding author Sarah L. Chellappa. 

“Our findings,” the author added, “open the door for a novel sleep/circadian behavioral strategy that might also benefit individuals experiencing mental health disorders. Our study adds to a growing body of evidence finding that strategies that optimize sleep and circadian rhythms may help promote mental health .”

Scheer, Chellappa, and colleagues recruited 19 participants for the randomized controlled study—12 males and 7 women. Participants undertook a Forced Desynchrony procedure in low light for four 28-hour “days,” causing their behavioral cycles to flip by 12 hours by the fourth “day,” replicating night work and throwing their circadian rhythms out of whack.

The daytime-only meal intervention group had meals on a 24-hour cycle, while the daytime and nighttime meal control group had meals on a 28-hour cycle (resulting in eating both during the day and night, which is typical for night workers).

Participants were randomly assigned to one of the two meal timing groups (resulting in eating only during the day). Every hour, the team measured the degrees of depression and anxiety-like moods.

They discovered that participants’ mood levels were greatly impacted by when they ate. Compared to baseline (day 1), the Daytime and Nighttime Meal Control Group members experienced higher levels of depression-like and anxiety-like moods throughout the simulated night shift (day 4).

The Daytime Meal Intervention Group, in comparison, experienced no changes in mood throughout the simulated night shift. Participants who had more circadian misalignment displayed more depressive and anxious symptoms.

“Meal timing is emerging as an important aspect of nutrition,” said Chellappa, “that may influence physical health.”

However, it is still unknown if the timing of meal intake affects mental health in a casual way. Future research is necessary to determine whether rearranging mealtimes can benefit people with depression and anxiety disorders.

Image Credit: Getty

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