Recent scientific evidence suggests that these fasting diets may do much more good for us than just aiding weight loss; intermittent fasting may boost health and prevent several diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, and Alzheimer's.
Recently, it's been hailed as a path to weight loss and improved cardiovascular risk. Now, a team led by James Brown from Aston University has evaluated the various approaches to intermittent fasting in scientific literature. They searched specifically for advantages and limitations in treating obesity and type 2 diabetes using fasting diets.
What is intermittent fasting and how does it work?
For people with obesity, few drugs are available to aid in healthy weight loss, and gastric surgery is a relatively rare and expensive alternative. Dietary changes remain the most common intervention used for obese people.
Fasting is known to help, but former treatments were based on intermittent starving. Today’s intermittent fasting regimes are easier to stick to, and are proven to help melt away excess pounds.
Scientists have known since the 1940s that intermittent fasting helps us lose weight, and can cut the incidence of diabetes in lab animals. Recent studies have also confirmed that restricting calorie intake could possibly reverse type 2 diabetes in some people.
The basic format of intermittent fasting is to alternate days eating ‘normally’ with days when calorie consumption is restricted. This can either be done on alternating days, or where two days each week are designated as “fasting days.”
Results of intermittent fasting in studiesThese types of intermittent fasting have been shown in trial studies to be as effective or more effective than counting calories every day to lose weight.
Evidence from clinical trials shows many potential health benefits of intermittent fasting, including:
- Limiting inflammation
- Improving levels of sugars and fats in circulation
- Reducing blood pressure
- Improving pancreatic function
- Reducing the fatty deposits associated with insulin resistance
Intermittent fasting and heart health
Fasting also appears to aid those with ischemic heart disease. Fasting may even protect the heart by raising levels of adiponectin, a protein that has several important roles in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism and vascular biology.
Intermittent fasting and weight lossBased on these findings, researchers believe that intermittent fasting might achieve much of the same benefits as bariatric surgery, but without the costs, restrictions, and risks associated with surgery.
According to the study’s lead author, James Brown, “Whether intermittent fasting can be used as a tool to prevent diabetes in those individuals at high risk, or to prevent progression in those recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes remains a tantalizing notion, and we are currently in preparation for clinical trials to assess the effectiveness of this form of lifestyle intervention in various patient groups.”
Intermittent fasting is an increasingly popular diet plan that hit the headlines in the run up to Christmas 2012 after the release of a book on the subject. Proponents claim that in addition to weight loss, the diet can lead to longer life and protection against disease, particularly conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.