Early time-restricted eating may favorably impact cognitive acuity in university students: a randomized pilot study

Selicia T. Mayra, Natalie Kravat, Kelly Chondropoulos, Anateresa De Leon, Carol S. Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Cognitive acuity is important for academic success. The preliminary efficacy of early time-restricted eating (eTRE) on cognitive acuity was examined in a sample of university students attending a large southwestern university. It was hypothesized that adherence to eTRE would result in improved cognitive acuity as assessed by the Trail Making Tests (i.e., TMT-A and TMT-B) and the Stroop Color and Word Test. Participants were randomized to an intervention group (eTRE) with a daily 6-hour eating window or a control group (CON) with a daily 16-hour eating window; 24 participants initiated the study (13 eTRE and 11 CON). Blood ketones (i.e., β-hydroxybutyrate [BHB]) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor were also assessed. The 8-week intervention was forestalled by COVID-19 laboratory closures beginning in March 2020, and only data obtained at week 0 (baseline) and week 4 were viable for statistical analyses. Study attrition was high (50% for eTRE and 23% for CON). At week 4, there was a 27% and 6% decrease in TMT-B response time for the eTRE and CON groups, respectively (P = .02). TMT-B response time was inversely correlated to plasma BHB among participants (r = –0.633; P = .008). Considering the inverse relationship between TMT-B response time and plasma BHB, these preliminary data suggest that eTRE may improve some aspects of cognitive acuity in this population. Future investigations are needed to confirm these findings and should accommodate individual preferences regarding the initiation time of the eating window while also considering the impact on social influences and exercise engagement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalNutrition Research
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Cognitive acuity
  • Early time-restricted eating
  • Ketones
  • Stroop Color and Word Test
  • Trail Making tests

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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