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Intermittent Fasting Explained

Intermittent fasting not only promotes weight loss, but has other benefits such as brain health, improved heart and lowered risk of diabetes, according research.

Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss
Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss photo by health.harvard.edu

Although most of the research is done in animals, dozens of human trails are on the way.

With new books coming out and more celebrities talking about it, people are asking their doctors about intermittent fasting. Success stories of individuals who have added fasting to their diet plan are becoming more popular as well.

“The evidence that intermittent fasting benefits the health of overweight people is already very strong. Its potential to slow or reverse certain diseases looks very good,” says Mark Mattson. Mark is a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and author of a new article on intermittent fasting in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Fasting from Birth

Since the hunter and gatherer days, humans are genetically developed to hunt for food and sustain days without eating. Within as little as 12 hours of going without food, the body begins to make changes to conserve energy. Also, the body begins operate more efficiently, explains Benjamin Horne, a clinical associate professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine.

Fasting may be hard at first when you miss a meal and it may feel like you are starving.

Benefits Vs. Risks of Intermittent Fasting

Some diet plans ask for restricting eating to a 6 to 12-hour window each day. Others ask for eating normally a few days a week, then instantly restricting calories for 2 or 3 days.

Both of the fasting approaches have been shown to help with studies in the realms of weight loss and metabolic health.

In one recent University of Alabama study, prediabetic men who limited their eating from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for 5 weeks, while still eating enough to maintain their weight, saw improved insulin sensitivity and blood pressure.

Stay Focused, Live Longer

Behold, the most interesting but least researched benefit of fasting is brain health.

The researchers knew for years that ketones can be a potent energy source for the brain cells. Also they can calm “electrical storms” or seizures in those who have a type of epilepsy. Still, there is more research that needs to be done in human trials.

“There is a lot that we still do not know,” says Barbara Gordon, chair of the department of nutrition and dietetics at Idaho State University. The most looming question is if this pattern of eating might have long-term detrimental health effects. Extreme diets can be unhealthy as well, especially when people with underlying medical conditions.

The bottom line

If you do happen to be in good health, skipping a few meals can lead to big gains. If can I improve my brain health and lose weight at the same time, then intermittent fasting may be worth a try.

Source: Marshall, Lisa. “Behind the Intermittent Fasting Fad”www.webmd.com June 24,