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General Health - Timing of fat consumption matters

By Holly Taylor BSc(Hons) DipCNM MBANT

Excess calorie intake is strongly associated with risk of developing increased adiposity, insulin resistance and dyslipidaemia. In the past, research efforts have focused on the quality or quantity of ingested calories, but more recent findings, published in The International Journal of Obesity, have found that the time of day at which carbohydrate versus fat is consumed can also markedly influence metabolic syndrome parameters. 

During the study, the researchers fed mice with either a low or high fat diet, in a consistent manner, during the 12-hour awake/active period. When fed in this way, the mice adjusted both food intake and energy expenditure appropriately, such that metabolic parameters were maintained within a normal physiologic range. In contrast, fluctuation in dietary composition during the active period (as occurs in human beings) markedly influences whole body metabolic homeostasis, particularly the timing of fat consumption.

Mice that were fed a high-fat meal at the beginning of the active period demonstrated similar metabolic flexibility to the consistently fed mice, whereas mice that were fed a high-fat meal at the end of the active phase demonstrated increased weight gain, adiposity, glucose intolerance, hyperinsulinaemia, hypertriglyceridaemia, and hyperleptinaemia. What is particularly interesting is that these detrimental metabolic changes are independent of daily total or fat-derived calories. 

Quoted elsewhere, one of the key researchers suggests that eating a fat-rich or carbohydrate-rich diet at the start of the day ‘switches on’ the body’s ability to metabolise these nutrients so that any consumption later in the day is dealt with better.

Article References

Bray, MS et al. Time-of-day-dependent dietary fat consumption influences multiple cardiometabolic syndrome parameters in mice. International Journal of Obesity. Epub ahead of print.

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