Stay away from fat and nibble all day – lots of small meals, at regular intervals, are the key to weight management.
A research group from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem managed to upset this paradigm in a group of mice.
Recipe to create a fat mouse
If you ask scientists to list ways to make an animal fat, they could come up with quite a long list…..
- Start with a genetically vulnerable type of mouse or do a little genetic tinkering yourself, to create that vulnerability
- Overfeed the animal, with either fats or carbs. The point is actually just to give the animal a lot more calories than it needs
- Create a little stress. A particularly good way to do this is to upset the animal’s circadian rhythm. This can be achieved by fiddling with the lighting, depriving the animal of a good “nights” sleep or disturbing the animal’s feeding schedule
Making fat mice
The Isreali team took the high-fat diet, in a genetically predisposed strain of mice, approach.
For 18 weeks they fed their mice a high-fat diet, but with a twist.
The mice were fed a high-fat diet, but the little guys needed to eat up, quick quick. The fat laden chow was only available for a short period of time each day. It was a case of fill up NOW or starve.
Fat feast and fasts
The group of mice feasting on fat and then fasting, were the experimental group.
The researchers then created several control groups of mice i.e. mice that were eating exactly the same amount of calories, but they were doing things a little bit more conventionally. The control groups were doing one of three things….
- Group 1 – these mice followed the standard health advice, eat low-fat and nibble whenever you feel hungry i.e. they had access to the food all the time.
- Group 2 – these mice were following standard health advise, but only partly, they went low-fat, but also had to eat when the food arrived or else.
- Group 3 – followed the recipe to be a very fat mouse. They ate a high-fat food, whenever they wanted.
The biggest mouse ?
As the weeks passed, the mice put on a little weight.
The mice on the diet to create a fat mouse, group 3, put on the most weight. The high fat, all day munchers were the clear winners, in the fattest mouse competition.
Second place for the fattest mouse went to….
The mice eating carbs all day. The nibblers.
The mice doing what the health gurus tell you to do to lose weight. Low fat, lots of little meals all day.
NB. All the mice were eating exactly the same number of calories – the difference was in the calorie package. Just goes to show, it is not as simple as a calorie is a calorie.
What happened to the mice attending the fat banquet ?
They were in the skinniest category.
The high fat feasters, weighed less than low carb nibblers.
But, the benefit extended beyond a more streamlined body – the mice exhibited altered body chemistry.
Instead of being wired to store fat, these little guys seemed to be fat burning machines.
Timing of dinner matters
We have been trained to worry about what is in the bites we eat and to eat, lots of little meals, throughout the day.
The health gurus have told us to cut the calories. Since fats have double the number of calories, the most efficient way to cut calories, is to minimize the fats you eat. The body’s complex body chemistry doesn’t follow human logic – from a body chemistry perspective, low carb actually makes more sense.
Go back to basics ….
Animal studies do need to be taken with a pinch of salt, we are not mice and what applies to mice, does not always apply to humans.
But, a hundred years ago, before obesity became the rule, rather than the exception – they did a few very basic things, modern man really doesn’t do.
- Eat three square meals a day, no more, no less.
- Don’t eat when you should be asleep. And of course, go to sleep.
Following these simple rules should help keep those kilograms at bay.Timed high-fat diet resets circadian metabolism and prevents obesity. The FASEB Journal (2012) 26 (8): 3493 H. Sherman, Y. Genzer, R. Cohen, N. Chapnik, Z. Madar, O. Froy.
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