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eTRF Improves Blood Sugar Control and Blood Pressure

Assistant Professor Courtney Peterson of UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences, discovered that eating early in the daytime and fasting for the rest of the day improves blood sugar control, blood pressure, and oxidative stress, even when people don’t change what they eat.

What is eTRF?

eTRF stands for “early time restricted feeding”, which is a form of intermittent fasting where people eat in a 10-hour or shorter period each day.  This time-restricted strategy is combined with eating early in the day, which is in alignment with the body’s circadian rhythms in metabolism. It’s equivalent to having 2 or 3 meals, starting as soon as you wake, eating dinner in the mid-afternoon, and then fasting for the rest of the day.

Study design

Professor Peterson constructed the study with 8 men with pre-diabetes who followed eTRF diet, eating within a 6-hour feeding period, with dinner before 3 pm.  They maintained this diet for 5 weeks, before a 7 week washout period.  They then and ate at normal meal times, which was a 12-hour feeding period,  for another five weeks each.

Following the eTRF schedule, the men each started breakfast between 6:30-8:30 each morning, and ended up eating six hours later and then fasted for the rest of the day—about 18 hours.   By contrast, on the normal schedule, they ate their meals spread across 12 hours. The men had the same foods on each program.

The team of researchers meticulously observed the men ensure they ate at the correct times and ate only the food that was given to them.

Blood Sugar and Blood Pressure

It was found that the eTRF diet improved insulin sensitivity, which indicates a more efficient uptake of glucose into the cells, and an improvement in the function of the pancreas to react to rising blood sugar levels. Also, the eTRF diet  dramatically reduced the men’s blood pressure,  their oxidative stress levels, and their appetite in the evening.

This research is important because it indicates that the benefits of intermittent fasting are not always because of eating less. Timing is also important.  Practicing intermittent fasting has natural, well established health benefits regardless of what you eat, but this study highlights the benefits of eating early in the day.

“If you eat late at night, it’s bad for your metabolism,” Peterson said. “Our bodies are optimized to do certain things at certain times of the day, and eating in sync with our circadian rhythms seem to improve our health in multiple ways. For instance, our body’s ability to keep our blood sugar under control is better in the morning than it is in the afternoon and evening, so it makes sense to eat most of our food in the morning and early afternoon.”

Peterson and her colleagues hope that the research will increase awareness of the role of the body’s internal biological clocks in health. This study could guide to better ways to help prevent Type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

With promising results, Peterson says more research is required on intermittent fasting and meal timing to uncover what types of approaches will work for most people and how it may provide more beneficial effects to human health.


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