An Investigation into the Effects of Time-restricted Feeding on Mood State in College Students: A Randomized 8-Week Trial
Mood disorders are prevalent within the college student population, increasing the potential for poor academic performance among those students. Intermittent fasting, particularly time-restricted feeding (TRF) regimens, have shown promising results associated with improvements in health outcomes related to weight loss, cardiovascular health, glucose and insulin regulation, and breast cancer; however, very limited research exits for the impact on mood states. The objective of this eight-week randomized, controlled trial was to examine the effects of a daily fasting regimen of 18 hours (six hour feeding window), compared to a daily fasting regimen of eight hours (16 hour feeding window), on the mood state of healthy college students attending Arizona State University or University of Arizona. Twenty nine students were recruited and randomized into the TRF group (n = 16) following a 16-hour fast or the control (CON) group (n = 13) following an eight-hour fast. Participants in each group were instructed to consume their first meal within an hour of waking, which would then begin their assigned feeding window. Participants were also allowed one ‘cheat day’ per week in which they were not required to follow their assigned fasting protocol, otherwise no additional dietary instructions were given; participants were permitted to consume food and beverages ad libitum throughout their feeding window. Mood state was assessed at baseline, week four, and week eight using the Profile of Mood States questionnaire and the GAD-7, specific to generalized anxiety. Of the initial 29 participants recruited, 18 completed the trial (TRF group n = 8; CON group n = 10). Data were reported through week four only, due to inconsistencies with week eight data as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The mood state measures did not show any statistically significant changes after four weeks. The results of this study suggest that a TRF regimen of 18 hours does not significantly impact overall or individual mood states among college students.