Two studies happening at Pennington Biomedical Research Center could change the way the world eats, but researchers need more participants for them.
Conventional wisdom says we should graze, eating smaller amounts throughout the day, but there's evidence that may not be the healthiest idea.
Curtis Lee didn't hesitate to sign up for the Timed Eating study, despite the rigorous demands. For five weeks, he was required to eat his three provided meals in a span of just six hours: 7 a.m., 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. That's 18 hours without food. Lee said it took about 10 days for his body to adjust and the results were eye-opening.
"I found that my normal eating routine had changed because of this five weeks and I was looking at my plate and looking at my food and my relationship with it a lot differently because of being here," Lee said.
The current phase of Lee's study requires him to eat the three provided meals in a span of 12 hours.
Dr. Courtney Peterson, an assistant professor at Pennington, said preliminary studies show the shorter eating schedule could be beneficial.
"We've thought for a long time that grazing is best for your health, because eating lots of small meals throughout the day would keep your blood sugar levels pretty constant," Peterson said. "But, there's been studies in animals suggesting the opposite, that perhaps it's better to eat earlier in the day."
Her studies hope to better define when we should be eating.
"We're seeing whether by having that longer fast period between dinner one day and breakfast the next, whether that gives your body more time to repair. And also, by eating earlier in the day, your blood sugar control is naturally better then, so we're trying to see if you eat when your metabolism is a little better, does that actually improve your health?" Peterson asked.
Lee's Timed Eating study is spread out over four months, with a seven-week break between the two phases. The GRAZING study follows the same two eating schedules, but lasts only two weeks. Timed Eating is limited to men ages 35 to 70 with a BMI of 25 to 30. GRAZING is open to men and women ages 20 to 45 with a BMI of 25 to 35.
Lee decided to take part in the study for his own health. He is being compensated for his time, but said what he's learned about nutrition and well-being from Pennington's staff is the real reward.
"Pennington doesn't try and replace the personal doctor, but as a result of some of the information that I've gotten here, I've talked to my personal doctor about it and we're going to look at some different things that hopefully will help me get to my 100th birthday just like my dad," he said.
As an African-American male, he knows his life expectancy is significantly shorter than other populations, but studies like these could help add years to everyone's lives.
Results are expected in late 2015.
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