If you haven’t heard about it already, in this article we will explain the concept of intermittent fasting. It consists of specifying a so-called “feeding” time of the day when you will be eating all of your daily calories and then fast for the rest of the day. Typically, the feeding time window lasts around 6-8 hours which means you will be fasting for 16-18 hours. Research has shown that abstaining that long from food could be the key to treating a wide variety of health issues, even if you have to push yourself mentally past the hunger.
A summary report of past human and animal studies published in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that intermittent fasting has the potential to decrease blood pressure, help with weight-loss and increase longevity.
The report itself serves as some sort of guideline for physicians to prescribe fasting methods to prevent or treat obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. One study author named Mark Mattson, a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University specifies two basic intermittent fasting methods:
- Time-restricted feeding during the day. Eating within a 6-8 hour time frame and then fasting for 16-18 hours.
- Dividing the week into feeding and fasting days. Fasting for two days a week, with the daily caloric limit set at 500 calories. Weekends fit nicely into this regimen.
However, American eating habits are completely different from what intermittent fasting is all about. For the majority of Americans, the norm is eating three meals a day with snacks between meals. This makes physicians much less likely to consider let alone prescribe fasting as a solution to a wide range of health issues, according to the study.
Taking into account that the research is relatively new and more is needed, the report advises physicians to continually monitor their patients while on intermittent fasting and gradually increase the frequency and duration of the fasting periods to slowly guide their transition.
What is an 18/6 fasting diet ?
18/6 fasting is simply a time restricted eating during a 24-hour period where a person consumes food for 6 hours and then they fast for another 18 hours.
How does 18/6 Intermittent Fasting work ?
Intermittent fasting studies have been done on rodents as well as obese adults to see the effects it would have on their health, even though it still isn’t clear whether the reported benefits were due to the weight loss. Alternating between fasting and eating periods can improve cellular health, Mattson said, and this is likely because of the triggering of metabolic switching. When they do this, cells use up their energy stores and convert fat into energy, or “flipping a switch” from a state of storing fat to saving fat.
What are the benefits of Fasting diets ?
Studies involving intermittent fasting have given different estimates on the diet’s effectiveness, however, some studies on human and animal subjects have linked the diet to increased longevity, healthier hearts, and improved cognitive abilities. A most striking example is the residents of Okinawa, who are known for their extreme longevity and nutrient-rich, low-calorie diet. Their unintentional intermittent fasting may have contributed to their long life spans as well as kept obesity at bay.
How to make intermittent fasting work for you
Studies have pointed out that intermittent fasting can improve insulin resistance, which can help maintain stable blood sugar levels throughout the day. A specific study involving three men suffering from type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes, found that they were able to stop taking their insulin doses after losing weight from the intermittent fasting. These results disprove the widely-held belief that diabetes cannot be cured.
A previous study that Mattson co-authored showed that the previously mentioned metabolic switch can increase the resistance to stress by improving overall brain function and neuroplasticity, a fancy term for the brain’s ability to adapt and restructure itself throughout one’s life.
Older adults who were put on a restricted-calorie diet similar to intermittent fasting have shown improved verbal memory compared to another group who hadn’t done intermittent fasting. Even physical function and performance improved for some participants. One study with young male participants who fasted every day for 16 hours reported that they lost fat and retained their muscle mass while being on a training regimen for two months.
What are the limitations of a fasting diet ?
Since the science on intermittent fasting is relatively new, more research would need to be done to fully comprehend its long-term effects on our bodies, and the existing studies are just too narrow. They have mainly been focused on overweight middle-aged and young adults, which means that the benefits they’ve experienced and its safety cannot be generalized to other demographic groups.
There’s another important thing we need to look into. This diet can be extremely difficult to stick to, especially for the average American for whom the concept of having three meals a day is such a fundamental thing that trying to change it to adopt a different eating pattern would be equal to blasphemy. The same goes for the doctors who wouldn’t even think of prescribing it. It is true however that it will almost surely leave the patients hungry, irritable, moody and less able to focus on their daily tasks.
In a JAMA study made in 2017, almost 40% of the participants who were put on an intermittent fasting diet dropped out of it. This is one of the drawbacks of intermittent fasting as a weight-loss method. People find it hard to stick to and it takes real mental and physical toughness to go through with it.
After all, it’s only human nature to want to reward yourself with something after doing hard work, like exercising or fasting for a long period. The most likely reward is junk food which although at first may be controlled, after a while makes people fall off completely off the wagon.
The reason why lots of people give up or go back to their previous eating habits is that when the brain is deprived of nutrients, hormones in charge of controlling appetite are released by the hypothalamus in great amounts which can cause overeating. However, the hunger pain is temporary. Doctors should point out to their patients that feeling hungry and irritable is something to be expected and usually passes within two weeks to a month as the brain and the body get accustomed to the new eating habits.