Many people follow intermittent fasting to lose weight, while some follow it to manage their health issues, such as diabetes, but is there any scientific evidence to support the health benefits of intermittent fasting?
Well, according to a new article published in The New England Journal of Medicine, intermittent fasting does help.
Neuroscientists Mark Mattson from the Johns Hopkins Medicine, who has been studying the effects of intermittent fasting for over 25 years, published the article, in which he tried to clarify the science and clinical applications behind intermittent fasting.
He wrote, “Intermittent fasting could be part of a healthy lifestyle.”
“Intermittent fasting diets fall generally into two categories: daily time-restricted feeding, which narrows eating times to 6-8 hours per day, and so-called 5:2 intermittent fasting, in which people limit themselves to one moderate-sized meal two days each week,” Mattson added.
Several animal and human studies have found that intermittent fasting could support cellular health by a process called metabolic switching that occurs when cells use their up stores of fuel and begin to convert fat into energy through a slower metabolic process.
Mattson continued, “Studies have shown that this switch improves blood sugar regulation, increases resistance to stress and suppresses inflammation. Because most Americans eat three meals plus snacks each day, they do not experience the switch, or the suggested benefits.”
He also mentioned four studies in both animals and humans, which found that intermittent fasting decreases blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and resting heart rates.
“Evidence is also mounting that intermittent fasting can modify risk factors associated with obesity and diabetes,” wrote Mattson.
The neuroscientist referred a few preliminary studies that suggest that intermittent fasting could have benefits on your brain health too.
“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 added.
Mattson acknowledged, “Researchers do not fully understand the specific mechanisms of metabolic switching and that some people are unable or unwilling to adhere to the fasting regimens.”
However, he argued that most people could incorporate intermittent fasting into their lives with proper guidance and patience. It does take some time to adjust your body to intermittent fasting.
“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 suggested. To overcome this issue, Mattson recommended that clinicians should advise patients to “gradually increase the duration and frequency of the fasting periods over the course of several months, instead of going cold turkey.”