And we measured the food and weighed the mice carefully every week for almost 18 weeks. At the end of 18 weeks, the first group of mice, who ate randomly, were obese, where at the same time, they had a host of different diseases – they were really morbidly sick – where the second group that ate within eight to 12 hours were completely healthy. But what is more surprising is this: If we take those morbidly sick mice and give them the same diet, same number of calories, and they have to eat only within eight to ten hours, they become healthy. This was a really earth-shattering, eureka moment for us, because for the first time in the history of nutrition science, we found that when we eat is as important as what or how much we eat.
Well then, how do we translate that to humans? The first thing we wanted to know is, when do people eat? To do that, we started a new study – and people usually sign up for the study at mycircadianclock.org – and then, since people love to take pictures, we asked them to take pictures of every single thing that they eat or drink, and we’d do the rest. So when the pictures come to our server, we add them on a timeline so that it’s easy for us to figure out when they eat. And they continue taking pictures for almost two to three weeks. So that we can take a nice snapshot of their food life during the weekdays and weekends. And you can see, for this particular person, he or she eats very randomly throughout the day.
And if you look at the weekday and weekend pattern, those are also very random. And if you combine the weekday and weekend, there is another interesting thing that comes up. It appears as if the person is on the East coast during the weekday and comes to the West coast on the weekend, which is also very bad for our circadian clock. Now, if we combine all of this data and plot it as if we are looking at a clock, then you can see that this person was eating almost around the clock. He’s not an outlier, actually.
If we look at the first 150 people who had signed up, nearly 50 percent of adults who actually have regular 8 to 5 jobs, eat for 15 hours or longer. So that means if they have their first bite at 7:00 in the morning, the last bite or last sip of wine happens at 9:00 or later. What is interesting is, if we feed mice even a healthy diet, and they eat for 15 hours or longer, then slowly they become overweight and they get all these diseases. So that’s why we wanted to ask a very simple question. We brought back people who were eating for 15 hours and were a little overweight, and asked them to eat whatever they want within ten hours of their own choosing, and we wanted to see what happens to them.
So within three to four months, these people actually boosted up their circadian rhythm and they lost the excessive body weight that they had. And over the last one year, we’ve had thousands of people from all over the world who are signing up either through our study or doing this by themselves. They try to eat all of their food somewhere between 8, 10 or 11 hours. And when they do that, after a few weeks, they’re truly amazed by the untapped potential of the healing power of circadian rhythm. Almost all of them lose a little bit of weight, but as they continue, they actually feel much better, more energetic throughout the day.
They sleep much better at night, and their mood is much better; they feel very sharp. And slowly, over months, they suffer less from different diseases of the gut, heart, immune system, diabetes and even some of the mental diseases. So we’re truly excited about this study, but at the same time, we learned another very important insight, and let me share that with you. That is, circadian clock tunes the potency of almost every drug that we take for almost every disease. So that means, at certain times of the day, the drug is more potent and can cure you, but at the wrong time of the day it can have a more severe adverse effect, as if it’s a poison.
So this is really important. And the effect is not even only to drugs, at what time of the day we take our flu shots, at what time we schedule our surgery for liver or heart, does matter. Even cancer patients who are going through chemotherapy or radiation therapy, it really matters whether they schedule the chemo or radiation in the morning or late in the afternoon. So this new knowledge about circadian rhythm is poised to start a new revolution in healthcare and healthy habits. Because the current idea of taking care of your health by counting calories and counting steps is just prehistoric.
And the same software and tools that our tech companies are using to make us watch more arts, sleep less and eat around the clock can be used for something better. We can have devices and sensors that can create a nice circadian lighting environment around us. Sensors can go on us to monitor our own circadian rhythm every day and how it interacts with the real outside world. Devices can prompt us what to eat and when to eat to boost our circadian rhythm. And even there will be smart pills and programmed drug pumps that can deliver the right medicine, at the right dose, at the right time, even in the middle of our sleep, so that we can get cured much faster.