In a perhaps bizarre kind of research, more than US$3 million has recently been awarded to a group of Penn researchers to help investigate how the human body is affected by discrepancies in meal timings. It is believed that the human body follows a natural circadian (24-hour) rhythm, and this cycle supposedly informs our decisions behind eating, sleeping, and various bodily activities.
US$3.75 million grant recently awarded to Penn researchers to help investigate how human health is affected by meal timings
The research builds on a previous study which shows that eating in a delayed manner will lead to various negative effects such as increased weight, glucose, and cholesterol levels, which are some of the indicators of various chronic conditions related to heart diseases and other health problems. This grant seeks to help them understand why.
The two researchers, Namni Goel, PhD and Kelly Allison, PhD from the University of Pennsylvania have received this 5 year, US$3.75 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. This will be a continuation of their research about how meal times influence human health.
Their initial research showed that weight loss and positive balances in hormones and metabolism is observed in a group of adults with normal weight relative to a delayed eating schedule. Their work also showed that a shorter sleep duration would increase caloric intake, especially during wee hours and this can have disastrous consequences such as weight gain and metabolism which would be distorted due to a person’s lifestyle.
As I read the report with continued enthusiasm, I began to wonder about the impact of this report. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), close to 40% of US adults were obese from 2015-16. More than half a million apparently die from heart disease every year as well. If the study is significant, I wonder if there could be serious implications for the population?
Personally, I feel that this is a lifestyle and behavioral issue, rather than an area which would require significant funds to derive significant results from. For example, I am sure some of us here would have experience snacking late at night while studying or working, and this would contribute to increased calories. Most of us would know that it’s unhealthy and could influence the body negatively. This then led me to think, what is the relevance of the study and what is so novel about this study?
According to Goel, she said that “This research has potentially broad clinical implications, including informing recommendations of healthy timed eating habits that influence weight and metabolic health, identifying targets for medical interventions for obesity, and preventing metabolic syndrome and diabetes from developing in persons with obesity“. I think that it’s not a dynamic and complex puzzle, it is simply self-control.
Regardless, I do wish that at the end of the 5 years, novel and significant findings can be shared. This is a significant study which is carried out over 5 years and taking up millions in funding, and two brilliant researchers. The opportunity cost is extremely high if the final conclusion drawn for potential intervention in the future is just exercising more discipline to sleep early, eat at regular timings, and exercise regularly.
You can also read the official statement here.