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Daytime Eating Could Improve Benefit Mental Health - New Study On Meal Timing Finds

Researchers have devised research to examine the impacts of day and night eating vs. day eating just, all while simulating the consequences of night work. They found that daytime eating could improve mental health.

Researchers observed that those who ate throughout the day and at night were more likely to have depressive and anxious feelings, with depression-like symptoms increasing by 26% and anxiety-like signs rising by 16%. This rise was not seen in the daytime-only eating group, suggesting that meal timing may alter mood sensitivity.

Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital, a founding member of the Mass General Brigham healthcare system, published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It's possible that meal scheduling affects emotional sensitivity, given this rise was not seen in the group who restricted themselves to eating throughout the day.

Shift Workers Are Especially Impacted

The schedules of people who work shifts are often disrupted by mealtimes that occur at different times of the day. Around 20% of the labor force in advanced economies provides these services directly.

Workers whose schedules require them to work shifts may experience a disruption in the timing of normal daily activities, including sleeping, eating, and waking up. There is also a significant increase (25-40%) in the likelihood that they may suffer from mental health issues, including sadness and anxiety.

In total, the group saw an increase of 26% in depressive-like symptoms and a rise of 16% in anxious-like symptoms. Co-corresponding author Sarah L. Chellappa, MD, Ph.D. said:

Shift workers and individuals experiencing circadian disruption, including jet lag, may benefit from our meal timing intervention. Our findings open the door for a novel sleep/circadian behavioral strategy that might also benefit individuals experiencing mental health disorders.

Healing Process Begins With A Healthy Diet

Everyone, from doctors to hotel workers, understands that working the night shift is psychologically and physically draining. Because less energy is being expended, weight gain is more likely, and long-term lack of sunlight has been linked to depression.

All told, 19 people (12 men and 7 women) were surveyed and recruited to participate in the controlled trial. Over two weeks, the first group consumed food at both daylight and dusk, while the second consumed it only during the daytime.

The mood was found to be significantly influenced by the timing of meals, according to the study's authors. Both depressive and anxious feelings were more prevalent on day 4 in the Daytime and Nighttime Meal Control Group compared to day 1.

On the other hand, the Daytime Meal Intervention Group showed no signs of depression or mood changes during the night shift simulation. In addition, those who had a more severe circadian misalignment were found to experience more frequent episodes of depression and anxiety. Chellappa also added:

Meal timing is emerging as an important aspect of nutrition that may influence physical health. But the causal role of the timing of food intake on mental health remains to be tested. Future studies are required to establish if changes in meal timing can help individuals experiencing depressive and anxiety/anxiety-related disorders.

Final Thought

These results provide preliminary evidence for the effectiveness of an evidence-based meal scheduling intervention in protecting against mood vulnerability during shift employment.

More research is needed to see whether shifting when night owls eat might reduce their susceptibility to mood swings.

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