Keep on the Sunny Side: Timing Meals for Better Mental Health
By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media
Researchers have discovered some connections between meal timing and mental health, especially feelings of anxiety and depression.
Researchers conducted a small trial (n = 19) during which the authors simulated night work, leading to circadian misalignment among participants. Investigators randomized participants to one of two groups. The control group ate meals on a 28-hour cycle (i.e., eating meals during the day and night, which is normal among night shift workers). The intervention group ate meals on a 24-hour cycle (i.e., eating only during daylight hours). Researchers assessed anxiety and mood every hour.
Participants in the 28-hour eating cycle group exhibited more signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression vs. the 24-hour eating cycle group.
“Our findings provide evidence for the timing of food intake as a novel strategy to potentially minimize mood vulnerability in individuals experiencing circadian misalignment, such as people engaged in shift work, experiencing jet lag, or suffering from circadian rhythm disorders,” said co-corresponding author Frank A. J. L. Scheer, PhD. “Future studies in shift workers and clinical populations are required to firmly establish if changes in meal timing can prevent their increased mood vulnerability. Until then, our study brings a new ‘player’ to the table: the timing of food intake matters for our mood.”