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Unless you’ve been totally off the grid, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about intermittent fasting (IF). The list of IF’s benefits is long and includes weight loss, blood sugar balance, and reduced inflammation. 

A new study helps1 us gain insight into how fasting might affect less obvious parts of our health, specifically our cells’ internal clocks, which control our daily sleep-wake cycle. 





How fasting affects the internal clocks of our cells

For this animal study, researchers separated mice into two groups and fed them the same high-calorie diet. One group got unlimited access to the food, while the other group was limited to a nine-hour eating window, which means they fasted for 15 hours a day. The mice were observed for about 7 weeks, then tissue samples were taken throughout the body and evaluated for genetic changes. 

The results, which were recently published in Cell Metabolism, showed that 70% of genes responded in more than 22 regions of the body—including in the liver, stomach, brain, adrenals, heart, lungs, and intestines, among others—to time-restricted eating. The findings also showed that many of the areas in the body in charge of hormonal regulation, including the circadian rhythm (which is regulated by the hormones cortisol and melatonin) were affected by time-restricted feeding.

Your own 24-hour clock.

Your circadian rhythm helps your body run on a roughly 24-hour cycle. Think about how you tend to get sleepy when the sun goes down, which happens because your body starts producing melatonin as it gets darker outside. 

This study shows that IF has a role to play in this 24-hour clock, as well as the way cells behave over time. As Satchidananda Panda, Ph.D., a senior author of the study, explains, “Circadian rhythms are everywhere in every cell.” And the results of this study showed that time-restricted feeding synchronized the circadian rhythm in cells in a way that promotes health.

More specifically, the data showed that 40% of genes in three areas of the body (the adrenal gland, hypothalamus, and pancreas) were affected by time-restricted eating. “We found that time-restricted eating synchronized the circadian rhythms to have two major waves: one during fasting and another just after eating. We suspect this allows the body to coordinate different processes,” Panda continued.

This coordination may be able to promote health and fend off disease. Previous research by the same authors showed that time-restricted eating could improve the health of firefighters, who often experience circadian rhythm disruptions due to their work schedules. 

How to support your circadian rhythm today.

This study was performed on mice and only fills in some of the gaps in knowledge we have about how intermittent fasting affects our body on a molecular level. Fortunately, we already know of other ways to support our daily cycles and overall health: 

1. Get sunlight first thing in the morning.

When sunlight comes in through your eyes, your brain picks up the cue that it’s daylight and time to get up and be active. This is why many health experts recommend stepping outside first thing in the morning if you can. 

2. Avoid blue light in the evening.

Conversely, blue light (like the light from our phone screens) is known to disrupt evening melatonin production and throw off our rhythm. Avoiding screens one to two hours before bed can help. 

3. Have a consistent bedtime.

Having a consistent bedtime (even on weekends) can help keep your sleep-wake cycle regulated so you can avoid symptoms like fatigue and brain fog. If you have trouble falling asleep, try one of these nine effective sleep aids

4. Don’t eat late at night.

A great way to start time-restricted eating is to avoid late-night snacking. This can help you easily extend your daily fasting window

5. Manage stress.

Your daily sleep-wake cycle is regulated by melatonin and cortisol, which is often called the stress hormone. This means that if you’re struggling with chronic stress and high cortisol, the interplay between these two hormones can start to go awry. Whether you turn to meditation, exercise, or talking with a friend, having a strategy to help keep stress levels in check is key.

The takeaway.

A new study shows that time-restricted feeding can affect your cells’ internal clock in ways that promote health. There’s still a lot more to learn, so for now we can support our body’s natural rhythms by getting plenty of sunlight during the day and darkness at night, stressing less, and consistently going to bed at the same time.



Knowing gout triggers might help prevent the painful attacks.

Gout is a common type of arthritis that can affect any joint, most often the big toe. Gout typically occurs in periods of no symptoms and periods of symptoms. When symptoms are present, it is known as a flare or attack. Gout flares can come with pain, swelling, redness, and difficulty moving the joint and typically last one to two weeks. There’s a wide range of things that can trigger a gout flare: from food to medications to dehydration.

Common Triggers of Gout Flares

Gout is caused by high levels of uric acid in the body. Uric acid is created when the body breaks down purines, which are chemicals found naturally in the body and in some food. Uric acid is typically broken down and discharged through urine. When not properly gotten rid of, excess uric acid turns into needle-shaped crystals in the joints, which cause gout flares.

There are certain things that are well-known triggers of gout flares. And because the triggers can largely be avoided, it’s important to know what they are when trying to prevent or manage gout pain.

Certain Meat and Seafood

Many purine-rich foods can raise the levels of uric acid in the body, in turn increasing the risk of a gout attack. Foods with higher levels of purine include:

  • Red meat, such as beef, lamb, and pork
  • Organ meat, such as liver and kidney
  • Some kinds of seafood
  • Sardines
  • Mussels
  • Scallops
  • Trout
  • Tuna

Not all purine-rich foods appear to raise your uric acid levels or risk of gout, though. Vegetables like peas, beans, lentils, asparagus, spinach, and mushrooms are rich in purine but—when eaten in moderate amounts—do not seem to have an effect on gout risk.


Drinking beer, wine, and liquor is known to raise the levels of uric acid in the blood. The more alcohol you drink, the greater the risk of a gout attack.

But one study found that even moderate alcohol consumption may increase the risk of gout attack among men. In fact, the male participants who had up to two drinks in a 24-hour period had a 36% higher risk of a gout flare than those who didn’t have any alcohol in that same time period. On the other hand, one drink in a 24-hour period did not significantly increase the risk.

Limiting consumption of alcohol might help prevent flares.

Drinks and Food High in Fructose

Fructose, a type of sugar, is the only sugar that raises uric acid levels in the body. Drinks high in fructose, like fruit juices and sweetened soft drinks, have been shown to increase the levels of uric acid in the blood.

The consumption of foods high in fructose, such as cookies and candy, have also been linked to an increased risk of gout flares. Avoiding or limiting these high-sugar drinks and food might help reduce the risk of a gout attack.

A Higher Body Mass Index

Being overweight or having obesity is associated with the initial development of gout. There is a link between a higher body mass index (BMI) and higher levels of uric acid. The connection can continue to play a role even after you’ve already developed gout.

If you are in the overweight or obese BMI categories, losing weight through diet and exercise may be a way to bring down uric acid levels and prevent future flares.

Surprising Triggers of Gout

While certain food, drinks, and lifestyle factors are well-known triggers of gout attacks, there are other gout triggers that should also be considered.


The exact relationship still needs to be determined, but research suggests that stress can cause an increase in uric acid levels in the blood. To help avoid gout flares, researchers suggest that people with gout try to avoid stress or take steps to reduce stress.


Low-dose aspirin can increase uric acid levels in the blood and sometimes nearly double the risk of gout flare. One study found that the risk of gout attack increases after two days of taking low-dose aspirin. The lower the dose, the greater the association.

But low-dose aspirin is often used in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. So even though it might trigger gout flares, it is not recommended that you stop or change the use of your low-dose aspirin if you are taking it to protect yourself against heart attack or stroke. Instead, you can address other gout triggers that might be in your life, such as your consumption of alcohol and red meat.


Dehydration can lead to higher levels of uric acid due to a decrease in urination and, thus, elimination of uric acid.

To lower the risk of a gout attack, people with gout should drink plenty of water on a daily basis. If exercising or spending time in hotter environments, such as a sauna, it’s important to drink extra amounts of water.

Temperature Changes

The weather can have an effect on gout. High temperatures and low humidity each increases the risk of a gout attack. The combination of hot and dry weather can especially trigger a gout flare. Extremely high humidity can also increase gout flare risk but to a lesser extent.

The exact reasoning behind the associations is not yet fully understood, but one theory is that dehydration plays a part. People with gout should stay hydrated to try to prevent weather-related gout flare when in hot or dry environments.


Common triggers for gout flare, such as red meat, alcohol, and high-sugar drinks should be limited or avoided to help reduce the risk of a gout flare. Other gout triggers, such as aspirin, stress, or the weather should also be taken into consideration when figuring out how to prevent and manage flares.

Not everyone with gout will be affected by every trigger. To determine which factors trigger a gout attack for you, take note of what you consumed or what activities you took part in before the gout flared up. By keeping a journal of these factors, you might be able to recognize a pattern in your gout flares.

A healthcare provider may also help you identify triggers and help prevent future flares. If you are experiencing a flare, talk to a healthcare provider about treatment options, which may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen (Advil), or prescription medications to manage pain.


Image by adamkaz / iStock

Meal prep, cardio, sleep…sometimes the healthiest activities are also the most time-consuming. If you crave healthy habits that won’t gobble up your entire day, a new study in Nature Medicine1 will interest you. It showed that you can increase your chance of living a long, healthy life in just three minutes (yes, minutes!) a day.

New study: Get healthier in 3 minutes a day?

For this study, researchers from Australia and Europe analyzed data from the UK Biobank on 25,241 people who considered themselves “nonexercisers,” meaning they did not make exercise part of their regular routines. The mean age of the participants was 61.8 years, and the researchers followed the study group for nearly seven years. The results showed that during the study period, about 852 participants died (511 died from cancer and 266 from cardiovascular disease). 

When researchers analyzed activity trends among the participants, they noted that participants who racked up three very short sessions of vigorous physical activity daily had a significantly lower risk of death. The results showed that those who performed three one-minute stints of vigorous activity each day had a 39% lower risk of death from any cause compared to those who did not do these bursts of activity. More specifically, they had a 49% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 30% lower risk of death from cancer.

Those who went a step further and completed 11 minutes of short bursts of exercise daily had a 65% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 49% lower risk of death from cancer.

As for what counts as a short burst of exercise, study co-author and professor of sport and exercise medicine at University College London Mark Hamer, Ph.D., tells the Guardian, “This could be things like playing with children. It could be [that] you see your bus just about to leave so you have to walk extremely quickly to get the bus. It may be that you live in a block of flats and you have to carry that shopping up a flight of stairs.”

We can add this to the growing body of evidence showing that we don’t have to train for a marathon to reap the benefits of exercise. Shorter movements, when done frequently, can also minimize inactivity and have a positive effect on our strength and overall mortality risk as we get older.

7 ways to get in “bursts of exercise” today.

When we see striking results like the ones from this study, it’s only natural to feel motivated to make changes to our everyday lives to improve health and longevity. A great place to start is with a multivitamin, which will help you get a wide range of beneficial nutrients that are key to a healthy body long term.

Then, you can turn your attention to getting these short bursts of activity regularly. Here are a few ideas for quick movements that you can build into your day to stay active on days when you’re low on time. The best thing about them? They don’t require changing clothes, waking up at the crack of dawn, or driving to the gym:

  • Race your kids to the car 
  • Walk at a steep incline 
  • Do 10 burpees 
  • Run around the yard with your dog 
  • Take the stairs (and keep the pace up!)
  • Dance your heart out for a minute straight 
  • Jump rope as fast as you can 


And now for the final question: What constitutes vigorous activity? As Emmanuel Stamatakis, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Syndey and the lead author of the new study, explained to the New York Times, an easy way to measure exercise intensity is to pay attention to how well you can speak while working out. If you can speak comfortably but don’t feel like you could quite muster singing a song, that’s considered “moderate.” If you can only speak a few words, or none at all, that’s how you know you’re in “vigorous” territory, which is what this research focused on. 

It’s worth noting that less intense exercise—like zone 2 training—is also very beneficial for cardiovascular health, so don’t forget about it entirely.

The takeaway.

Doing three one-minute stints of vigorous activity each day may lower nonexercisers’ risk of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease, according to a new study published in Nature. Luckily, it’s easy for all of us to incorporate these types of quick bursts of exercise into our day—no planning or special equipment required.


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