THOMPSON: Eating healthy also means eating at the right time | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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THOMPSON: Eating healthy also means eating at the right time



The past four months I’ve made a real effort to get more exercise and watch my diet more closely. It’s paying off…I’ve lost about 30 pounds. I feel better…and some clothes long banished to the back of my closet…now see the light of day.

I started wondering last month, what if it’s not just what I eat but when I eat? I asked my family physicians…both the one in Florida and the one in B.C. They both said, “Yes, the time you eat matters.” So, topics like circadian rhythms and esoteric articles by and for doctors made their way on my must-read list the past month.

That’s what changed my nightly habit of perusing the refrigerator. The guilty pleasure of choosing late-night snacks by refrigerator light - once a seven-day habit - is no longer part of my daily routine. It is a dangerous pastime…one largely (no pun intended) responsible for my gaining a new, larger (again, no pun intended) wardrobe over the past four years.

It didn’t help that I am pretty handy in the kitchen…capable of whipping up culinary delights for family and friends that surpass many restaurants. Unfortunately, everything I might want but didn’t need was right there…a ready temptation.

But, hey, my bad habits were all on me. I can still make delicious dinners for loved ones without succumbing to the nightly siren call of the refrigerator.

What, then, is the science behind eating at the “right” not “wrong” times? We humans have found ways over eons to store energy to survive. Our biological clocks use hormones to signal our bodies…telling us the best times to sleep and eat day after day…on a more-or-less regular cycle. It is the aforementioned circadian rhythm.

Shift workers - and there are millions who fall in this category - labour against the grain…working when humans ordinarily sleep and sleeping when most of us work. That means eating times become jumbled.

I’m not a shift worker per se…but I am a late-nighter. What you’re now reading was written after midnight…and I’m often writing as late - or rather early - as 2 or 3 A.M. A number of scientific studies discovered that shift workers have higher rates of sleep disorders and obesity.

Oddly, perhaps, studies even found that those of us who work by the light of the moon burn fewer calories than conventional nine-to-fivers, even if doing the same work. Night folks have a  40 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease…and suffer from more heart attacks and strokes.

Science has found a delicate balance between our circadian rhythms and when we eat. All things equal, humans have greater cravings for food at 8 P.M., and lesser cravings at 8 A.M.
This was found even when research subjects didn’t know what time it was.

What worked well for us when our ancestors lived in caves…doesn’t serve us well today. Insulin is a food-related hormone that helps regulate the levels of glucose in our blood. This secretion of - and our bodies’ response to - insulin follows a circadian rhythm. Insulin helps move glucose through our muscles…a critically important role.

However, our bodies’ sensitivity and resistance to insulin is highest during periods of greater activity and when we’re asleep, respectively. Eating, of course, affects our blood sugar levels. If we eat the same meal morning and night, our blood sugar increases more in the evening than in the morning. So, you see the potential problem.

So-called microbiomes in our bodies host bacteria that influence much of the systems and processes that make us live well. Generally, the greater diversity of the bacteria in our gut…the healthier we are…and that diversity changes according to what and when you eat.

Studies indicate that during activity processes like metabolism, cell growth and repair are increased. Sleep results in more genes targeting detoxification of our bodies.

We no longer live in caves and most of us are fortunate enough to not worry about where the next meal is coming from. Neanderthals no doubt worried about “lions, tigers and bears, oh my!”…not whether late-night raids on the ice-cave might shorten their lives.

The bottom line is stay active, make sensible choices of what to eat…and like mom always preached, eating earlier is better than later.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.

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