Nicky Blackburn
September 19, 2012

Israeli researchers have discovered that carefully regulated high-fat meals can lead to loss of weight and a unique metabolism in which ingested fats are not stored, but are used for energy in between meals.

In the past, it was thought that feeding mammals a high-fat diet would disrupt the metabolism and lead to obesity, but lead researchers Prof. Oren Froy and Prof. Zecharia Madar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem believed that careful scheduling of meals would regulate the biological clock and reduce the effects of a high fat diet.

Prof. Oren Froy

In animal tests, the researchers fed a group of mice on a high fat diet on a fixed schedule for 18 weeks. The mice ate at the same time and for the same length of time every day.

Three control groups were given alternative diets. One group ate a low fat diet on a fixed schedule, one ate an unscheduled low fat diet (eating whenever they felt like it), and another ate an unscheduled high fat diet.

All four groups of mice gained weight during the experiment, with a final body weight greater in the group that ate an unscheduled high-fat diet.

Surprisingly, however, the mice on the scheduled high-fat diet not only had a lower final body weight than the mice eating an unscheduled high-fat diet, but also a lower weight that the mice on an unscheduled low fat diet, even though both groups consumed the same amount of calories.

In addition, the mice on the scheduled high-fat diet exhibited a unique metabolic state in which the fats they ingested were not stored, but rather used for energy at times when no food was available, such as between meals.

“Our research shows that the timing of food consumption takes precedence over the amount of fat in the diet, leading to improved metabolism and helping to prevent obesity,” said Prof. Froy. “Improving metabolism through the careful scheduling of meals, without limiting the content of the daily menu, could be used as a therapeutic tool to prevent obesity in humans.”

The results were published in the FASEB Journal.

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