As scientists become more and more fascinated by the surprising health benefits of fasting, yet another intriguing new study emphasizes the importance of when we are eating, rather than what we are eating.
The study, published in Nature Proteomics, demonstrates how spending time in a fasted state has benefits that can outperform daily dietary allowances in terms of fighting cancer, and regulating lipid and glucose metabolism.
The research involves an examination of circadian biology, which is the study of our circadian clocks—the biological equipment attuned to the day/night cycles of the planet and how we respond to them.
The study posits that a disruption of the rhythmic nature of circadian clocks, particularly the hepatic (the liver) clock, can lead to cancer and metabolic syndrome (a term for a variety of unsavory health outcomes arising from poor eating, sleeping, and exercise habits that can include, but are not limited to diabetes and obesity).
The researchers found that mouse studies demonstrated an increased rate of cancer and metabolic diseases in rodents when their circadian rhythms were disrupted. A fast of 14 hours, starting at sunset and ending at sunrise, has been repeatedly demonstrated to "reset" the clocks, allowing them to operate off the dysregulated rhythm of the "master clock".
Even though rodents are nocturnal creatures and they do most of their activity at night, the authors imagined the effect of a similar 14-hour sundown to pre-sunrise fast would have the same benefit in humans even though we are a diurnal species (resting at night).