Want Better Cognition? Research Says Meal Timing Matters
When we think about factors that positively impact cognitive function, things like getting enough sleep and eating brain-healthy foods probably come to mind. But according to research published in the journal Life Metabolism, there's another surprising factor that you might be missing. Here's what to know about how the timing of your meal could impact your brain health.
Studying how meal timing impacts cognition
For this study, researchers wanted to dig into the relationship between "temporal distribution of energy intake during a day" (TPEI, or in simple terms, meal timing and amounts) and cognitive function.
To do so, they analyzed existing data from the China Nutrition Health Survery (CHNS) public database, which included over 3,300 middle-aged to older adults.
Their analysis pointed to six distinct patterns of eating: evenly distributed; breakfast-dominant; lunch-dominant; dinner-dominant; snack-rich; breakfast-skipping.
Then, cognitive function was measured with a few different tests, such as word recall, counting backward, quick mental math questions, etc.
Based on the findings, it would appear having an "evenly distributed" pattern of eating is more advantageous for cognitive function than one that's not evenly distributed. Namely, long-term cognitive function scores were "significantly lower," according to the study authors, with unbalanced eating patterns—and especially for those who skipped breakfast.
"Thus," they write, "maintaining balanced TPEIs has potentially positive effects on cognitive health, whereas skipping breakfast may significantly increase the risk of cognitive decline in middle-aged and older adults."
What to do about it
This study describes an "evenly distributed" pattern of food intake as one that is "approximately evenly spread out" among breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So if you've been skipping breakfast, it might be time to get out of that habit.
And beyond just making sure you eat a little something for breakfast, this study actually supports the idea of three square meals a day, at least when it comes to supporting cognitive health.
In terms of what to eat, don't miss out on brain-healthy nutrients like omega-3s, fiber, antioxidants, and protein. And in addition to your diet, taking a comprehensive brain health supplement can also give your brain a boost.
Look for a supplement containing neuroprotective bioactives, nutrients, and botanicals proven to support cognitive vitality and performance. (To that end, here are our favorite memory supplements to help you pick one.)
It is truly remarkable how our body respond to the foods we eat, how much of them we're eating, and when we eat them. And based on this study, it seems a consistent and evenly distributed pattern of eating is best when it comes to cognitive function.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.