What, and When To Eat For Maximum Health Benefit

November 30, 2009


One simple way to stay healthy is to pay attention to what we eat, that much we know, and of more of that about a specific part of our diet in the Health Bite at the end of this piece.

Now it seems that when we eat could be just as vital to good health. Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies has turned the conventional wisdom that our body’s metabolism is controlled by our body’s circadian rhythms –our body clock, but instead it’s our liver that is responsible.

Our liver, which is the body’s metabolic clearing house, contains thousands of genes that wax and wane throughout the day and this process is mostly controlled by our food intake, not our body clock and this has a huge huge impact on our metabolism.

Previously it was thought that people like shift workers, who are unusually prone to metabolic syndrome, diabetes, high cholesterol levels and obesity, had these problems because of their shift patterns disrupting their normal circadian rhythm. Now this theory gives them an opportunity to change that as controlling eating and fasting periods can manage the body’s processes much more easily.

We all have a ‘master clock’ in the brain which is set by light and determines our sleep-wake cycles and when we eat. We also have subsidiary clocks in our other organs and they are not affected by light but do keep time through the fall and rise of gene activity on a roughly 24-hour schedule that anticipates environmental changes and adapts many of the body’s physiological function to the appropriate time of day.

This initial research has been done by putting laboratory mice on a strict 8-hour feeding/16-hour fasting schedule and this could be translated into how we eat on a daily basis. For example, genes that encode enzymes needed to break down sugars rise immediately after a meal, while the activity of genes encoding enzymes needed to break down fat is highest when we fast.

How does this help?

If you want to optimize burning fat and sugar, to control weight, you would want your period of ‘fasting’ after a meal high in fat, and all your food intake for a 24 hour period to take place within an 8 hour time frame. The researchers have found that not eating between 8 pm and 8 am works best if you want to lose weight and stay healthy and certainly much naturopathic advice has been not to eat a heavy meal at night, but it might be worth seeing if not eating all during the evening period makes a difference.

Healthy Bite:

So now you know when to eat, and here’s some advice on what not to eat to lose weight and stay healthy. Mount Sinai School of Medicine published their findings in the October/November issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism and it means throwing away that frying pan, if you haven’t already, and giving up processed foods.

They conclude that simply by stopping frying food you will reduce inflammation in the body, restore its natural defence system, lose weight, possibly increase your lifespan and improve or prevent diabetes, cardiovascular disease and kidney disease.

Wow, and this works no matter what your age or whether you already have a serious disease. The processes of heating, pasteurizing, drying, smoking, frying or grilling food produces harmful toxins called Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs). When you eat foods subject to any of these processes then the AGEs adhere to tissues and oxidize them. This causes inflammation which can result in numerous diseases.

The new clinical study put their subjects on a diet of only eating food that was poached, stewed or steamed, but with no change in the number of calories they had each day. After four months of this they found that AGE levels, inflammatory markers, and biomarkers of vascular function declined by as much as 60 percent. Kidney patients put on this diet showed a similar reduction but after only one month on the diet.

So if you want to maintain a healthy immune system and avoid inflammatory disease it might be a good idea to follow that poaching, stewing and steaming diet recommendation.


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