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There’s always a hot diet trend in the air, whether it’s going raw, abstaining from gluten, eating small meals throughout the day or putting flax seeds in and on everything.

But a study from the Salk Institute (the founder invented the polio vaccine) recently revealed that one key to maintaining and losing weight might not be in what we eat, but when we eat it.

No, doctors aren’t saying you should start overeating, but tests on lab mice have confirmed that fasting for 12 hours may effect how we burn fat.

The study tracked a group of mice who were on diets high in fat or sugar, but the key variable differentiating test groups was time.

Some mice were only allowed to eat for nine to 12 hours, while other–luckier–rodents were permitted to snack on the same amount of food around the clock.

The study’s head researcher, Dr. Satchidananda Panda, concluded that subjects eating on a strict, time-oriented schedule gained less weight than those who didn’t have to answer to the clock.

What’s more, even when the restricted feed time group was allowed to disregard its routine, they still gained less weight than the freedom feeders. It led the researchers to deduce that perhaps some flexibility (or, “cheat days”) wouldn’t necessarily hinder the success of a diet.

And what of the pudgy little mice who probably looked very cute despite lab-induced obesity? Well, when they were put on the restricted diet, doctors noticed a loss of 5 per cent body weight and a reversal of effects attributed to diabetes.

Okay, so you’re not a mouse. Well, the American team from the Salk Institute discussed its plans to begin testing on humans to see if similar results occur. If the results are the same, then maybe it’ll be wise to not pull a Nigella Lawson every night.