A study team at Nagoya University discovered that when mice consumed sugar only at times when they were active, they suppressed the fat in their liver and blood more than when they were allowed to consume the sweet stuff anytime.
Refraining from consuming sweets during times when the body is at rest could reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome and other diseases, according to the researchers.
“Even if we know for a fact that consuming too much sugar is bad for the health, it’s hard not to do so,” said Hiroaki Oda, a member of the team and an associate professor of chrono-nutrition at Nagoya University.
“However, in humans, for example, it is likely to reduce the harmful effect, if people limit the time to eat sugar only during the day.”
The study results were published in the U.S. scientific journal Plos One on Aug. 16.
According to Oda, during hours of rest, fat is likely to accumulate because activity to break down sugar in the body becomes weaker and it is not converted in the blood for energy needs.
Excessive intake of sugar has been recognized as increasing the amount of fat in the liver and the blood.
World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines recommend adults and children reduce their daily intake of sugars to less than 10 percent of their total energy intake to help with lifestyle-related diseases.
It also says a further reduction to below 5 percent, or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons), per day would provide additional health benefits.
In the study, scientists fed rats either sugars or starches. Rats were divided into two groups: those fed only during the night when rats are active; and those allowed to eat sugars or starches anytime they desired.
Four weeks later, the study team examined the level of fat in the livers and blood of those rats.
As a result, rats with time-restricted sucrose intake had about 20 percent less amount of fat in their livers and blood than those allowed to eat sugar anytime.
Nevertheless, even if rats were fed only sugar during times they are active, the level of fat in their livers and blood was higher than those fed starches.
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