Why eating during the day may be good for mental health

Why eating during the day may be good for mental health

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A new study shows that eating during the day versus eating at night can benefit the mental health of shift workers. Junior Images / Getty Images
  • Researchers recently investigated the effects of meal timing on mood impairment in night shift workers.
  • They found that eating only during the day, as opposed to eating during the day and at night, can significantly improve mood among night workers.
  • However, they note that more studies are still needed to confirm their findings.

Shift workers often have a misalignment between their 24-hour physical clock – known as the circadian clock – and daily environmental and behavioral cycles due to erratic working hours.

Studies show that circadian disruption has a negative impact on mood And the Sleeps. Other research shows that shift workers have 25-40% Increased risk of depression and anxiety among workers who do not work in shifts.

former Research from 2019 It shows that shift work is also associated with an increased risk of metabolic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes. But the evidence new Eating during the day – even with irregular sleeping hours – can help maintain circadian compliance and prevent glucose intolerance during nighttime work.

Further research into evidence-based daily interventions is critical to improving the mental health of at-risk populations.

Recently, researchers conducted a randomized clinical trial (RCT) to find out how daytime eating affected mood among those who worked in a simulated work environment.

They found that while the participants who ate during the day experienced no changes in mood, those who ate at night experienced mood states similar to depression and anxiety.

“This study shows that changing meal timing can provide clear and measurable effects on mood under shift work conditions,” Stuart PearsonHe, PhD, professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford University, was not involved in the study MNT.

“As the authors note, this study used simulated work schedules under laboratory conditions. It remains to be seen whether night-shift workers would benefit.”

The researchers published their findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

For the study, researchers recruited 19 participants including 12 men and 7 women with an average age of 26.5 years.

To prepare for the study, participants maintained a consistent 8-hour sleep time for two weeks. Then they underwent a 14-day lab stay.

After several days of acclimatization to the laboratory and provision of baseline measurements, participants underwent a forced desynchronization (FD) protocol in dim light for 4 days every 28 h.

The protocol allowed participants to gradually switch to a ‘night work schedule’. By day four, they had deviated from day one by 12 hours.

During the FD phase of the study, participants were randomly assigned to receive meals either during the day alone or during the day and night together, which is typical for night workers.

Other conditions remained the same among the participants, including calorie and macronutrient intake, physical activity, sleep duration, lighting conditions, and night work.

The researchers assessed participants’ depression- and anxiety-like moods hourly during FD days.

After analyzing the results, the researchers found that those who ate both day and night had a 26.2% increase in depressive-like moods, and a 16.1% increase in anxious-like moods, compared to the start of the study.

In comparison, those in the daytime eating group saw no change in levels of depression-like or anxiety-like moods.

By assessing the participants’ glucose and body temperature rhythms, the researchers found that the degree of circadian disruption was closely related to more depression- and anxiety-like moods.

They further noted that eating only during the day despite faulty sleep was associated with maintaining internal circadian alignment.

When asked how meal timing might interact with circadian rhythms, Sarah ShelapaPh.D., from the Department of Nuclear Medicine at the University of Cologne, Germany, and a study co-author told MNT:

Our circadian system consists of the main circadian clock in the brain and peripheral clocks in most tissues throughout the body. While the master clock is primarily synchronized by the circadian cycle of light and dark, many peripheral clocks are highly synchronized (for example, the timing of eating).

Therefore, eating meals during the night can cause a disconnect between the peripheral and central circadian rhythms. [For example]the central clock may be on [the] Boston (USA) time zone, while terminal clocks work [the] Cologne (Germany) time zone,” added Dr. Schelapa.

“This disruption of the circadian alignment between different clocks throughout the body (called an internal circadian imbalance) may be responsible for increased physical and mental health risks among night-shift workers who often eat during the night.”

— Sarah Shelapa, Ph.D., interview study author

Gregory NawalnikHe, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the University of Kansas Health System, was not involved in the study MNT Doctors are aware that depression and anxiety can disrupt the regulation of the circadian clock because patients’ sleep patterns are often disrupted.

“This disorganization can lead to disengagement from the outside world as the individual may fall asleep through commitments only to wake up and experience increased depression/anxiety or self-loathing as a result. This fuels a vicious cycle that exacerbates their experience with depression or anxiety,” Dr. Nawalnik said. where they feel hopeless or helpless about their situation.”

“This study reveals an interesting new angle as we study this effect in reverse – exploring how circadian disruption affects mental health. However, it stands to reason that the effect could be bidirectional.”

d . added interconnectedThe causal relationships remain unknown. However, she indicated:

“The animal work shows that – even among healthy animals – experimentally induced disturbances in circadian rhythms can negatively affect the activity of brain regions essential for mood control, and lead to more depression and anxiety-like behaviors, while resynchronizing circadian rhythms can that prevent such effects. Thus, daily alignment may be necessary to maintain optimal activity in regions of the brain that regulate mood.”

The researchers conclude that their findings provide a proof-of-concept that meal timing may prevent mood impairment in shift schedules.

When asked about the limitations of the study, Dr. Nawalnik noted:

“Because circadian disruption is created in a lab setting, the biggest limitations of this study come in the form of real-world application. They [also] It doesn’t take into account the interpersonal disconnect and relational frustration shift workers may experience as a result of their schedule. This is an important variable that may greatly influence feelings of depression, anxiety, and fears.”

Mahadir AhmedPh.D., Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, not involved in the study, also said MNT:

“It would be good to measure that too [or] Indicates biomarkers of psychological distress (such as serotonin [and] cortisol levels) as well as measured by self-administered questionnaires, so the results will be more convincing.”

When asked how these findings might affect mental health management, Dr. Shelapa noted that until more studies are done, “it may be helpful for night workers to reconsider the amount of food (particularly carbohydrates) they eat at night.”

Dr. Nawalnik added that these findings could point to a tool therapists can use with shift workers who suffer from depression and anxiety.

“It could also provide a potential behavioral therapeutic intervention in the form of dietary recommendations that may help produce meaningful ways of managing these conditions in shift workers,” he said.

“It would be important to describe the nascent state of these discoveries, but sometimes providing an accessible, meaningful straw that can be pivotal in bringing about meaningful positive change in someone who is beginning to feel helpless and hopeless about their condition.”

— Gregory Nowalianek, Ph.D., clinical psychologist at the University of Kansas Health System

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