A new study has revealed that intermittent fasting may help you live longer and improve your overall health.
While many fad diets, such as keto, have been proven unsustainable or even, in some cases, harmful, intermittent fasting has by and large held up to scientific testing.
Intermittent fasting diets, fall generally into two categories: daily time-restricted feeding, which narrows eating times to 6-8 hours per day, and the so-called 5:2 intermittent fasting, in which people limit themselves to one moderate-sized meal two days each week.
According to a recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the benefits of intermittent fasting includes improvements in ‘glucose regulation, blood pressure, and heart rate’.
In the study, Johns Hopkins University neuroscientist Dr Mark Mattson writes that intermittent fasting may be able to help many health conditions like obesity, diabetes, mellitus, cardiovascular disease and cancers.
For example, the American Heart Association estimates that 47 million people in the US have metabolic syndrome, a network of symptoms that often precedes diabetes.
About a third of US adults at least three of five risk factors that make up metabolic syndrome: high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, low levels of ‘good,’ HDL cholesterol and abdominal obesity.
About 85 per cent of people who have this network of symptoms also have type 2 diabetes.
Those with both conditions are at far greater risk of developing heart disease or suffering strokes as well.
But intermittent fasting could reduce risks of diabetes. Fasting can also increase stress resistance and suppress inflammation, according to the paper.
Mattson, who has studied the health impact of intermittent fasting for 25 years, and adopted it himself about 20 years ago, writes that ‘intermittent fasting could be part of a healthy lifestyle’.
According to Mattson, preliminary studies suggest that intermittent fasting could benefit brain health too.
Mattson referred to a clinical trial at the University of Toronto in April that found that 220 healthy, non-obese adults who maintained a calorie restricted diet for two years ‘showed signs of improved memory in a battery of cognitive tests’.
Noting that far more research needs to be done ‘to prove any effects of intermittent fasting on learning and memory’, Mattson says if that proof is found, the fasting – or a pharmaceutical equivalent that mimics it – ‘may offer interventions that can stave off neurodegeneration and dementia’.
‘We are at a transition point where we could soon consider adding information about intermittent fasting to medical school curricula alongside standard advice about healthy diets and exercise,’ he said.
Mattson says the new study is intended to help clarify the science and clinical applications of intermittent fasting in ways that may help physicians guide patients who want to try it.
He says that with some guidance and patience, most people can incorporate the fasting regimens into their lives.
‘Patients should be advised that feeling hungry and irritable is common initially and usually passes after two weeks to a month as the body and brain become accustomed to the new habit,’ Mattson says.