Login | March 23, 2023

Eat dinner earlier, live longer?

Pete’s World

Published: March 13, 2023

My girlfriend thinks I’m on the verge of eating a slice of humble pie again.
And this latest slice could possibly end up on my plate in spite of the fact that the topic in question resides very comfortably in my fitness wheelhouse.
Now I say, “could possibly,” because her assertion that eating dinner earlier in the day can increase lifespan is gaining a semblance of acceptance in the scientific community.
Conversely, my assertion that the timing of dinner has no impact on lifespan is based strictly on childhood conditioning and not on science.
You see back in the day, when my better half and I weren’t sharing the same roof, and when my humble pie consumption was minimal, I’d typically eat dinner anywhere in the 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. realm.
And like most people of my generation, I’d been conditioned by my parents to eat dinner during those “normal” suppertime hours.
So fast forward to today, where I’ve been begrudgingly buying into the early dining schedule despite the boss’s non-science background and her hesitance to provide me with any scientific evidence to validate her thesis.
The final straw in this controversy occurred after a series of 2:30 p.m. dinners, whereupon I decided to combat her antidotal notions with science rather than my childhood conditioning.
Besides, eating dinner that early, like before 3 p.m. well that has all the hallmarks of a blue-plate-special mentality - and I just ain’t there yet.
So in keeping with science, let’s hone in on the core question: Can eating dinner early in the day increase lifespan, and what’s the definition of early?
Now this multifaceted question is quite different from the very well accepted thesis that binge eating later in the evening is unhealthy.
There’s ample evidence that evening binge eating leads to weight gain, this because of its negative impact on the genes that control fat burning and storage.
So let’s not confuse the unhealthfulness of evening binge eating sprees with the postulation that early dinner eating contributes to living longer.
And this postulation, as it turns out, has never actually been investigated.
Now several interesting studies have been done on calorie restricted (CR) diets, and they collectively determined that lifespans could indeed be extended...in mice.
Enter researchers from the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, who decided to take it a step further and examine whether meal timing could be as life-extending as the CR diets were. And they too tested their hypothesis on mice.
In their study, Circadian alignment of early onset caloric restriction promotes longevity in male C57BL/6J mice, published in the June 10, 2022 issue of Science. UT researchers conducted an experiment whereby they controlled the calorie quantity and the feeding times of mice.
Now I’m not about to go through all the protocols that were involved in that study, but suffice to say it was pretty extensive.
And in lieu of discussing all that data, let’s cut to the chase.
They claimed that a 30% calorie restriction could prolong a mouse’s lifespan by 10%. However that 30% calorie restriction coupled with a circadian alignment of feeding (early feeding times) further extend a mouse’s lifespan by a whopping 35% over the control group (non-CR/non early feeding time) mice.
If you insist on hearing it from the horse’s mouth, explained in pure scientific jargon, it goes like this: UT researchers concluded, “aging induced widespread increases in gene expression associated with inflammation and decreases in the expression of genes encoding components of metabolic pathways in liver from ad libitum–fed mice. CR at night ameliorated these aging-related changes. Our results show that circadian interventions promote longevity and provide a perspective to further explore mechanisms of aging.”
Now I don’t know about you, but to me - a tried and true science geek who labored through this study - I’m noncommittal here.
It’s not only a quantum leap in making comparisons, but it’s also far too early in the ball game for a singular mouse study to be used as a predictor of whether or not humans can increase their lifespans by eating dinner earlier.
So my dear, there’s the scientific study. And in the opinion of this fitness savant, I declare our argument a deadlock. See you for dinner at…um…2:30 p.m.…as usual.