Firefighters testing time-restricted diet to fight heart disease

The diet restricts eating to a 10-hour period each day, giving the body a more predictable pattern of eating that matches its daily or circadian rhythm

By Bradley J. Fikes
The San Diego Union-Tribune

SAN DIEGO — Firefighters endure debilitating stresses that raise their risk of heart disease and other ailments. Scientists from the Salk Institute and UC San Diego have developed a simple diet that might improve their health, and will test it on volunteers.

The diet restricts eating to a 10-hour period each day. This gives the body a more predictable pattern of eating that matches its daily or circadian rhythm, said Satchidananda Panda, a Salk Institute professor and co-leader of the new study.

Firefighters and other emergency workers have no control over when they’ll be interrupted from routine duties or a sound sleep to be called into action.

“They’re exposed to light at the wrong times,” Panda said. “This causes huge disturbances. And when they’re awake they’re likely to snack.”

While the unpredictable nature of their work can’t be changed, firefighters at least can control their eating patterns, Panda said.

Study results may apply far beyond the emergency response field, Panda said. About 20 percent of employees work non-standard shifts, which can play havoc with their circadian cycles.

In mice studies, Panda found that restricting the time of eating resulted in reduced weight and improved health, even with the same caloric intake as a control group.

Moreover, preliminary studies in people suggest similar benefits, without changing how much food or what kind of food they eat.

Salk’s Panda and UCSD study co-leader Pam Taub, MD, will work with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. The department will recruit 150 volunteers from local fire stations. Volunteers will be assigned either to the time-restricted diet or given standard dietary counseling.

Those on time-restricted eating will use a smartphone app developed by the Panda lab that tracks eating, sleeping and exercise. It has already been used by thousands of people, and is available here

The study is funded by a $1.5 million grant by the Department of Homeland Security for three years.

Copyright 2018 The San Diego Union-Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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