Doctors have long touted the idea that waking up early is better for your health, even if it doesn’t feel like it at first. While this may be because night owls tend to have unhealthier lifestyles, it shows how changing your sleep schedule can lead to healthier habits overall. It turns out that there’s yet another reason to get on the early bird train.
Researchers reporting for the Endocrine Society say that, according to their 2021 study, eating breakfast before 8:30 a.m. could reduce your blood sugar levels and insulin resistance throughout the day. In turn, this could lower your risk for type 2 diabetes.
Lead researcher Marriam Ali, M.D. of Northwestern University in Illinois told the Endocrine Society that food restriction didn’t alter outcomes. “We found people who started eating earlier in the day had lower blood sugar levels and less insulin resistance, regardless of whether they restricted their food intake to less than 10 hours a day or their food intake was spread over more than 13 hours daily,” she explained at last year’s annual Endocrine Society meeting.
To conduct the study, the research team had 10,575 adults participate in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants were divided into three groups based on when they started eating and when they stopped eating each day. The three groups included those who consumed food over the course of 13 hours or more, those who consumed food in 10 to 13 hours, and those whose intake took place in less than 10 hours. Researchers also further divided the groups into participants who ate before or after 8:30 a.m.
Once the study leaders had collected all the data, they analyzed it to find out whether eating duration and eating times had any effect on fasting blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. For those who don’t know, a fasting blood sugar level that is less than 99 mg/dL is considered normal, while a level between 100 and 125 mg/dL is considered prediabetic.
Interestingly, the researchers learned that fasting blood sugar levels were not very different from group to group. In other words, a person’s eating duration didn’t have much effect on blood sugar. Researchers also found that people who ate food in a shorter time frame every day — less than 10 hours — tended to have higher insulin resistance levels. In contrast, those who began eating before 8:30 a.m. had far lower levels of insulin resistance.
“These findings suggest that timing is more strongly associated with metabolic measures than duration, and support early eating strategies,” Ali said. In effect, dieting techniques such as intermittent fasting or other time-restricting measures may not be as important in promoting lower blood sugar levels as previous research suggests.
It is important to take these findings with a few grains of salt. People who wake up early tend to have healthy habits in general, so normal insulin levels might simply be linked to a healthy lifestyle as opposed to an early breakfast.
Still, if you are willing to wake up early and eat a healthy breakfast before 8:30 a.m., it’s worth a try. The simple change in your routine could promote a wealth of other health benefits, and help your body regulate blood sugar and insulin levels throughout the day. That famous phrase, “early to bed and early to rise” has merit after all!