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High Fat Diet and Circadian Rhythms

Irregular eating habits (timing/schedule) and poor sleeping habits have been attributed to weight gain and obesity. A new study (performed with mice) now finds that simply incorporating a scheduled meal pattern helps to reset the Circadian rhythms (CR), improve health conditions and assist in weight loss (The FASEB Journal,’12;26(8):3493DOL).

What are Circadian Rhythms (“CR”)?

Good question; they are our body’s built-in clock that creates the many rhythms of our physiological processes. For example, in the morning, the body is designed to have a scheduled bowel movement by 8:30 am. At 9 am, the body reaches its peak level for testosterone production in men. Afternoons seems to be the best time for exercise whether it is aerobic or strength training. What does this tell you about our bodies; put simply; it has ideal times for specific body functions so this information will already useful to you when planning your workouts schedule and overall health regimen.

Back to the study- it showed that irregular eating habits disrupts our CR. The mice used in this study that had their Circadian Rhythms out of balance showed higher weight gains, elevated cholesterol, reduced insulin function and increased body weight. The study protocols were as follows; mice were separated into two groups one was fed a high fat diet and the other fed a low fat diet-same amount of calories for each group. The key factor was that the feeding times were set at precise times. Researcher, Oren Froy, required that the mice be fed every 4 hours during the day. These protocols were implemented for 18 weeks! By creating this schedule or Restricted Feeding Timing (RF) would determine if it would “re-set” their CR.

The results were as follows: both groups improved their overall health status and weight loss and their Circadian Rhythms were re-established. When analyzing the diet, it was interesting to note the high fat diet had greater weight loss results as compared to the low fat diet (18% vs. 12%). All markers were better with the HF diet – cholesterol improved 30% vs. 21% to LF diet. Insulin sensitivity among high fat diet was 3.7 fold increase compared to 1.4 fold LF diet. Finally, the high fat diet lowered stress hormones by 53% and offered a more satiated or satisfaction with this diet practice.

Therefore, what does this a high fat diet teach us?

By simply incorporating timely meals into our daily schedule (every 4 hours), we can prevent weight gain or obesity! This is amazing how much power you have over your body by simply applying some discipline, such as eating on a scheduled basis! I have worked with many overweight individuals and the one thing they seem to have in common is skipping meals during the day, especially- breakfast. It also makes it easier to skip breakfast when you ate late at night the day before. This creates a vicious cycle that leads to weight gain. Lastly, I want to clarify that even though the study showed a ‘high fat diet’ was more beneficial; I do not believe a diet above 30% fat intake is necessary to achieve some of the health benefits noted in the study.

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