A study on intermittent fasting reveals that, regardless of the time slot chosen to eat, eating early in the morning was associated with better metabolism with respect to blood sugar levels. Essential information for people at risk of type 2 diabetes, say researchers.

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The regulation of the concentration of glucose in the blood is dependent on insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas. This hormone is called hypoglycemic: it favors the storage of circulating glucose in muscle, fat and liver cells. In diabetics, these cells respond less well to insulin. This is called insulin resistance, a phenomenon that interests researchers because it appears very early in the course of diabetes. Indeed, people with insulin resistance may have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which is 90% of cases.

A study conducted by researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago suggests a simple way to reduce this risk factor, directly related to lifestyle. Unveiled at ENDO 2021, the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society, it states that people who start eating in the morning before 8:30 am. had lower blood sugar levels and less insulin resistance, which could reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And this was true whether they "limited their food intake to less than 10 hours per day or whether their food intake was spread over more than 13 hours per day. ", the researchers explain.

Which "nutritional strategy" to adopt?

Insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels affect a person's metabolism, including the breakdown of food into its simpler components: proteins, carbohydrates (or sugars) and fats. Metabolic disorders such as diabetes occur when these normal processes are disrupted. "With an increase in metabolic disorders such as diabetes, we wanted to expand our understanding of nutritional strategies to help address this growing concern. " says Prof. Marriam Ali, lead author of the study. The scientific team was specifically interested in the effects of intermittent fasting on metabolic health.

Specifically, the study looked at whether, under a time-limited diet over a defined period of time, eating earlier in the day affected metabolism, including fasting blood glucose (blood sugar) levels and an estimate of insulin resistance. The researchers analyzed data from 10,575 adults who participated in a national health and nutrition survey. They divided the participants into three groups based on the total duration of their food intake: less than 10 hours, 10-13 hours, and more than 13 hours per day. They then created six subgroups based on the start time of meal duration (before or after 8:30 am).

Eat as early as possible in the morning...and in the evening?

The researchers analyzed these data to determine whether the duration and timing of eating were associated with fasting blood glucose levels, and an estimate of the level of insulin resistance. It turns out that fasting blood sugar levels did not differ significantly between groups. However, insulin resistance was higher with shorter food interval duration, but lower in groups with a meal start time before 8:30 am. "These results suggest that timing of food intake is more strongly associated with metabolic measures than duration, and support early feeding strategies. ", concludes the scientific team.

Note that this is not the first time the impact of meal timing on insulin and fasting blood glucose levels has been discussed. In 2017, a scientific study stated that adopting the bad habit of late dinner or evening snacking over the long term can dangerously alter metabolism by promoting higher levels of insulin, fasting blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides, which increases the risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. In general, it is therefore recommended that people with diabetes ideally follow a similar meal schedule from day to day for optimal blood glucose management.