Eating too late can interfere with the body’s ability to repair and rejuvenate itself, says Prof. Satchin Panda.

When you eat, as important as what you eat, says researcher

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For optimal health, people should only eat over an eight to 10-hour period on a daily basis, says the author of a new book called The Circadian Code. The body’s internal clock is closely attuned to sunrise and sunset, and not following it can have negative health consequences, says Prof. Satchin Panda, a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California, U.S.A.

Prof. Satchin Panda says links several chronic diseases with people’s failure to align their habits with their natural body clocks.

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‘When circadian rhythms break, everything else breaks’

“Circadian rhythms are a daily timetable of thousands of chemical processes that happen in our body. Every…chemical, every hormone, every digestive enzyme, disease-fighting process…is programmed to rise and fall at specific times of the day.” These rhythms repeat every day, regardless of whether it is a weekend or weekday, summer or winter, says Panda.

“When our circadian rhythms break, everything else breaks down. We feel low energy, our muscles become weak, we get bloated gut, foggy brain, and we gain weight. And if it continues for a few weeks, a month, then the risks for over a hundred different chronic diseases increases.” Panda mentions obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, joint pain, high cholesterol, liver disease, the many diseases of the gut, cancer, depression and dementia.”

Getting some daylight every day is important, says Prof. Panda. And if the weather is too bad to go outdoors, he suggests sitting at a window. (iStock)

Bodies repair, rejuvenate every night

When we sleep, our bodies repair and rejuvenate themselves. Doctors have long recommended that people get eight hours sleep, and go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. But beyond that, Panda says if we eat too close to bedtime that can interfere with repairs and rejuvenation. He likens it to trying to fix a road when cars are still running on it.

Three suggestions for better health

Panda has three main recommendations for keeping the body in sync with its circadian rhythms. First, he says, all calories from food and beverages should be consumed over eight to 10 hours, or at the most, in a 12-hour period. Second, he says it is important to be exposed to outdoor light every day for at least 30 minutes. If it is impossible to go outdoors, he recommends people at least have a meal close to a window.

Finally, he suggests people dim the lights and avoid blue light when they are sleeping. Light interferes with melatonin which regulates sleep. Panda believes that keeping in sync with the body’s natural rhythms can greatly improve a person’s health.

Prof. Panda’s book details why he says it is important to observe the body’s natural rhythms.

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