Importance The efficacy and safety of time-restricted eating (TRE) on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) remain uncertain.
Objective To compare the effects of TRE vs daily calorie restriction (DCR) on intrahepatic triglyceride (IHTG) content and metabolic risk factors among patients with obesity and NAFLD.
Design, Setting, and Participants This 12-month randomized clinical trial including participants with obesity and NAFLD was conducted at the Nanfang Hospital in Guangzhou, China, between April 9, 2019, and August 28, 2021.
Interventions Participants with obesity and NAFLD were randomly assigned to TRE (eating only between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm) or DCR (habitual meal timing). All participants were instructed to maintain a diet of 1500 to 1800 kcal/d for men and 1200 to 1500 kcal/d for women for 12 months.
Main Outcomes and Measures The primary outcome was change in IHTG content measured by magnetic resonance imaging; secondary outcomes were changes in body weight, waist circumference, body fat, and metabolic risk factors. Intention-to-treat analysis was used.
Results A total of 88 eligible patients with obesity and NAFLD (mean [SD] age, 32.0 [9.5] years; 49 men [56%]; and mean [SD] body mass index, 32.2 [3.3]) were randomly assigned to the TRE (n = 45) or DCR (n = 43) group. The IHTG content was reduced by 8.3% (95% CI, −10.0% to −6.6%) in the TRE group and 8.1% (95% CI, −9.8% to −6.4%) in the DCR group at the 6-month assessment. The IHTG content was reduced by 6.9% (95% CI, −8.8% to −5.1%) in the TRE group and 7.9% (95% CI, −9.7% to −6.2%) in the DCR group at the 12-month assessment. Changes in IHTG content were comparable between the 2 groups at 6 months (percentage point difference: −0.2; 95% CI, −2.7 to 2.2; P = .86) and 12 months (percentage point difference: 1.0; 95% CI, −1.6 to 3.5; P = .45). In addition, liver stiffness, body weight, and metabolic risk factors were significantly and comparably reduced in both groups.
Conclusions and Relevance Among adults with obesity and NAFLD, TRE did not produce additional benefits for reducing IHTG content, body fat, and metabolic risk factors compared with DCR. These findings support the importance of caloric intake restriction when adhering to a regimen of TRE for the management of NAFLD.