The benefits of time-restricted eating may depend on age and sex; Study

By Arya M Nair, Official Reporter
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Time-restricted eating (TRE), a dietary regimen that restricts eating to specific hours, has garnered increased attention in weight-loss circles, according to a new study by Salk scientists.

Salk scientists’ findings published in Cell Reports show that while age and sex do affect the outcomes of TRE, the eating strategy delivers multiple health benefits for young and old of both sexes, 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.

The study’s specimens were male and female mice of two age groups, similar to 20 and 42-year-old humans, who were fed a high-fat, high-sugar diet restricting eating to nine hours per day. The researchers ran a test to see how age and gender influence the effects of TRE on a variety of health outcomes, including fatty liver disease, glucose regulation, muscle mass, performance, and endurance, and sepsis survival, a life-threatening condition.

Satchidananda Panda
Dr. Satchidananda Panda
Salk Institute

“For many TRE clinical interventions, the primary outcome is weight loss, but we’ve found that TRE is good not only for metabolic disease but also for increased resilience against infectious diseases and insulin resistance. Our results show that TRE confers multiple health benefits besides weight loss. The study also shows that these benefits may depend on sex and age.”

The researchers discovered that regardless of age, sex, or weight-loss profile, TRE strongly protected against fatty liver disease, a disorder that affects more than 100 million people and for which no treatment has been approved. 

Blood Sugar

TRE was linked to a lower increase in blood glucose and a faster return to normal blood sugar levels in both young and middle-aged males, as well as a significant improvement in glucose tolerance in young and middle-aged females, according to oral glucose tolerance tests given to mice after 16 hours of fasting.

This finding indicates that TRE may be a low-or no-cost, user-friendly way to prevent or treat diabetes, and supports the results of the lab’s 2019 study on TRE for metabolic syndrome in humans.

The researchers also discovered that TRE may protect both males and females from sepsis-induced death, which is a significant risk in ICUs, particularly during pandemics. The researchers analyzed survival rates over 13 days after giving the mice a toxin that caused a sepsis-like condition and found that TRE protected both male and female mice from dying of sepsis.

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