New Study In Men With Prediabetes Suggests Eating The When Way May Help Improve Metabolic Syndrome

Chances are, you or someone you know probably has Metabolic Syndrome. This constellation of symptoms—which increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, not to mention arthritis, wrinkles, impotence, and dementia—affects about 1 in 4 adults. To have metabolic syndrome, you need at least three of the following:

·     Waist circumference greater than 35 inches in women and 40 inches in men

·     High Triglycerides (150 (mg/dL) or greater)

·     Low HDL cholesterol (less than 50 mg/dL in women or 40 mg/dL in men)

·     Hypertension (130 / 85 or higher) 

·     Prediabetes (Fasting glucose of 100 mg/dL or greater)

Fortunately, metabolic syndrome is reversible, and the primary way to do it is to lose weight (decrease waist circumference). But now a new study has found that focusing on WHEN you eat, may help improve both fasting blood sugar and hypertension even in the absence of weight loss. 

The study enrolled men with prediabetes (1 in 3 adults have it) and had them follow two different eating schedules. The participants either started by eating three meals per day over a 12-hour window (control group) or the same meals over a 6-hour window early in the day (early, time restricted feeding) for five weeks. They then switched to the other schedule for another five weeks. All the meals were provided, and the men weren’t allowed any additional food. They were purposefully given enough calories so that they would not lose weight, because the scientists wanted to see how early time restricted feeding could affect the body independent of weight loss. 

After just five weeks of early, time-restricted feeding, the men had a meaningful (statistically significant) improvement in insulin levels and insulin resistance. In addition, they had a significant decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. And remember this is without losing any weight.

The researchers found no change in LDL, or HDL cholesterol but did find a slight increase in triglycerides. While high triglycerides are a factor in metabolic syndrome, in this case they may have been elevated, because testing was done in the morning, and there is more fat mobilization after an extended fast. 

This remarkable study is the first of its kind in humans to show that WHEN you eat can impact metabolic syndrome risk factors even without weight loss, in just a few weeks. While this study was small and short and should be repeated with a larger group for a longer period of time, it gives us some valuable insight into WHEN we should be eating. If you’re eating the When Way, the takeaway for you from this study is that increasing the time between your last meal and your first the next day, can have important benefits beyond weight loss.  

Michael Crupain