diet, eating window

At a total loss as to how you could keep off unwanted pounds? If you’ve already tried controlling what you’re eating, perhaps you could also start monitoring when you eat.

A recently published study in the journal Cell Metabolism suggests that restricting food access to a 10-hour “eating window” may help in preventing obesity and other metabolic illnesses.

Researchers from the Salk Institute in California found that even with disabled biological clocks, mice who had access to high-fat foods within a daily 8- to 10-hour window remained lean and in good health. In contrast, “clock-less” mice who had 24-hour access to the same foods exhibited obesity, high cholesterol, and other metabolic diseases. This was despite the fact that both groups had “indistinguishable” levels of caloric consumption.

The rhythm of eating

For many of us, the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions circadian rhythm is sleep. The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cellular cycle in mammals that indicates when certain genes are active. Our genes for digestion, for instance, are more active in the earlier parts of the day. Genes for cellular repair, on the other hand, are more active at night.

To investigate how circadian rhythms affect the development of metabolic diseases, the researchers disabled certain genes in the test subjects governing their biological clocks, particularly the metabolism-regulating genes in the liver. These “genetic defects” made the mice more prone to metabolic diseases.

The results showed that the mice subjected to time-restricted eating were in better health than the 24-hour eaters. Thus, the researchers realized that the health benefits of time-restricted eating weren’t just due to heightened digestive gene activity. Even though the mice’s digestive genes weren’t controlled by their biological clocks, the tight eating window helped establish a balance between getting enough nutrition and having sufficient time for cellular repair (the time they spent not eating).

The researchers believe that this sheds more light on the role of our biological clocks: that the circadian rhythm’s primary purpose may actually be to tell our bodies when to eat and when to stop.

These findings are useful because as we grow older, our circadian clocks deteriorate. Disruptions may also occur when we change sleeping patterns or take night shifts. As our circadian clocks weaken, the balance between nutrition and repair goes off the rails. Thus, we become more prone to various metabolic, heart, and mental diseases. The findings suggest that by following a strict eating window, we may be able to maintain good metabolic health.

Time for more tests

Next, the scientists will examine how their findings can apply to human beings. They will also look at how having an eating window can prevent diseases of aging.

“For many of us, the day begins with a cup of coffee first thing in the morning and ends with a bedtime snack 14 or 15 hours later,” according to senior author Satchidananda Panda, a professor in Salk’s Regulatory Biology Laboratory. “But restricting food intake to 10 hours a day, and fasting the rest, can lead to better health, regardless of our biological clock.

“The finding that a good lifestyle can beat the bad effects of defective genes opens new hope to stay healthy.”


  • Salk Institute. (2018, August 31). Eating in 10-hour window can override disease-causing genetic defects, nurture health: Periods of fasting can protect against obesity and diabetes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 3, 2018 from

Author: Mikael Angelo Francisco

Bitten by the science writing bug, Mikael has years of writing and editorial experience under his belt. As the editor-in-chief of FlipScience, Mikael has sworn to help make science more fun and interesting for geeky readers and casual audiences alike.