by Katrina Hapner, contributing writer for Telegraph Local
Intermittent fasting, defined by scientists as creating large gaps in between periods of eating, could have many health benefits. With intermittent fasting, the most common way of doing it is alternate day fasting, which is when food is very restricted every other day, so twice a week a 500 to 700 calorie meal is eaten instead of three unlimited meals. The timing of eating is also regulated, with a specific window of hours during the fasting day where this one meal must occur. In an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, scientists collected data that shows fasting can improve cognitive function, cardiovascular health, and symptoms of diabetes and obesity.
The science behind intermittent fasting occurs when something called metabolic switching is triggered. This is where a person’s source of energy switches over from burning glucose to fat instead. When this happens, the body produces ketones, which regulate the proteins that are involved with health, aging, and genes related to psychiatric and neurological disorders. The authors of the aforementioned article believe that this process prevents a human body from creating free radicals, as well as help with weight loss. It has also been shown to improve diabetes, increase the body’s defense against stress, and repair cells.
Intermittent fasting makes sense to a lot of its followers. It is fact that carbohydrates are quickly broken down into glucose which cells use for energy. If our bodies do not need all of it then it is stored as fat cells. However, glucose can only enter cells with the help of insulin. In between meals, as long as we don’t snack, insulin levels decrease, and fat cells can release their glucose. If insulin levels are low, then weight loss can occur. This is the whole idea behind intermittent fasting, to allow insulin levels to go down and stay down for long periods to burn off fat.
Weight loss is not the only benefit. Intermittent fasting has also shown benefit in older adults in verbal memory and thinking skills. The study followed Japanese people on the island of Okinawa who use intermittent fasting, and consequently have lower rates of obesity and diabetes, as well as living longer lives. However, Western culture usually includes three meals a day plus snacking, which does not reap the benefits of lower and more even insulin levels. In comparison, our ancestors were much more active and did not usually have a regular eating pattern.
The study does admit that more research needs to be done in order to say that intermittent fasting is safe and helpful to other populations that were not studied. There have also been previous studies in the JAMA Internal medicine in 2017 and American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2005, that back up this newest study. It may not be a good idea with people with certain chronic health issues, or people with a history of eating disorders. Intermittent fasting can be hard for a lot of people, but just changing the timing of meals by keeping most food intake earlier in the day, would automatically create a longer overnight fast while sleeping and would give some benefits. Overall, the study does show that intermittent fasting is not detrimental to the body for most people, and giving it a try could have individuals reaping many health benefits.