When we eat is more important than what we eat. That is the claim of Satchin Panda, PhD, leading expert in circadian rhythm research. Dr. Panda is the founder of the Center for Circadian Biology at the Salk Institute and an adjunct professor at the University of California, San Diego. He has ample research to support his claim. 

The circadian rhythm is our 24-hour biological clock. Every organ and cell in our body has such a clock and it varies according to function, such as digestion and sleep.

Panda argues for time-restricted eating (TRE) based on the fact that our digestive circadian clock needs at least 12 hours daily of not eating to allow for repair and food processing for the rest of our body. Breaking this 12-hour code will cause us to gain weight. After 12 hours of fasting, we burn fat and lose weight. This fat-burning process is consistent with the intermittent-fasting approach that has become popular since Jason Fung published The Obesity Code (2016). 

Limiting eating to an 8-hour window allows your body time for repair.

Panda shows that with every hour beyond 12 of TRE, the benefits double. Patients will make the most robust changes with restricting their eating to within an 8 hour window (ie., all meals between 11am and 7pm; not including light beverages).

After making a case for TRE, Panda recommends other important healthy lifestyle measures such as avoiding processed carbs and other processed foods, as well as exercise, restful sleep and stress reduction. The book’s section on sleep is especially useful in explaining the rationale for getting 7-8 hours of sleep to maintain the circadian rhythm. I am putting on my red glasses to block out blue light much more regularly since reading the book and am also reducing my screen time in the evening.

The Circadian Code is an excellent complement to the other nutrition and lifestyle books I recommend by authors such as Mark Hyman, Jason Fung, David Perlmutter, Dale Bredesen and William Davis. My short book, Lean and Fit (2019, Third Edition) and website, www.leanandfitlife.com, also synthesize this approach of a healthy, low-carb diet with intermittent fasting.

Joseph Scherger, MD, MPH is co-founder of Restore Health in Indian Wells, a clinic  dedicated to reversing disease. For more information, visit www.restorehealth.me or call (760) 408.2720.

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