In an experiment on fruit flies that offers insights for us humans, the timing of when food was eaten throughout the day – not the food – made a difference on heart health and weight, altering genes related to aging and heart problems.
The study was published last week in Science.
For the study, scientists gave one group of fruit flies access to food throughout the 24 hour-period while a second group was given food access for 12 hours of the day. All the fruit flies were given the standard diet of cornmeal.
After three weeks, the study found that flies on the 12-hour time-restricted feeding schedule slept better, didn't gain as much weight and had healthier hearts than their "eat anytime" counterparts. Both groups ate similar amounts of food. The researchers observed the same results after five weeks.
Gene analysis at various point during the experiment identified three genetic pathways that appear to be involved. One pathway relates to the body's circadian rhythm, natural changes that occur in the body on a 24-hour cycle.
When the experiments were repeated using flies with nonfunctional versions of the circadian rhythm genes and another set of identified genes, there was no difference between the 12-hour-only and anytime feeding groups.
The experiments builds on research on late night eating and health issues, but there is still a long way to go before these findings in fruit flies can be applied to people, the authors note.
The work was supported by NIH grants and American Federation for Aging Research and American Heart Association grant and the Glenn Center for Aging.
Source: Shubhroz Gil, et al. Time-restricted feeding attenuates age-related cardiac decline in Drosophila. Science 13 March 2015: Vol. 347 no. 6227 pp. 1265-1269
Published on March 16, 2015