INTERMITTENT fasting is an increasingly popular weight-loss strategy. Beyond weight loss, however, the diet has promising benefits that may reduce the risk of developing certain lifestyle-related chronic diseases. In this honest nutrition article, we explain everything you need to know about intermittent fasting and whether it’s worth it.
Intermittent fasting is a term used to describe a variety of eating habits that alternate periods of fasting – abstinence from food – and eating.
The fasting period can last from 12 hours a day to several consecutive days, with a constant and recurring pattern over the course of a week.
The main types of intermittent fasting are: modified fasting or the 5:2 diet — this protocol involves fasting for 2 non-consecutive days of the week and eating normally for 5 days of alternate fasting — fasting days are alternated with days when food and drink are consumed normally, with no limited diet restrictions over time — a type of intermittent fasting that limits the “eating window” to 4-12 hours, inducing a daily fasting period of 12-20 hours.
People eat their fill during their meal windows without calorie restriction. Of these, time-restricted eating is the most popular, and perhaps what most people are referring to when they mention intermittent fasting.
The 16:8 model – eating during an 8-hour window and fasting for 16 hours each day – may be the most recommended time-restricted eating pattern.
The circadian rhythm
Much of the research on intermittent fasting and time-restricted eating considers the impact of fasting on the body’s natural circadian rhythm.
The circadian rhythm, also known as the circadian clock, represents the 24-hour metabolic cycle in the body, including control of the sleep-wake cycle, blood pressure, mood regulation, and hormonal balance, to name a few. name a few.
It is influenced by light and darkness during the day, eating behaviors and meal times.
A growing body of research suggests that eating for long periods of the day, ranging from 12 to 15 hours, can disrupt the circadian rhythm and increase the risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Thus, a major goal of fasting, particularly time-restricted eating, is to reduce the time spent eating during the day by extending the overnight fasting period.
The study of the relationship between circadian rhythms and food timing is called chrono-nutrition.
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Many benefits of intermittent fasting are attributed to daily fasting periods of at least 12 hours, although some research suggests that a minimum of 16 hours of fasting may be required.
Typically, during 12-36 hours of uninterrupted fasting, hepatic glycogen stores are depleted, overall metabolic processes are impaired, and positive health effects are observed.
Here are some of the scientific benefits of intermittent fasting.
- Improved cholesterol levels
Animal and human research results show favorable changes in cholesterol levels. Intermittent fasting has the potential to lower total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and increase HDL or “good” cholesterol.
High levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides are risk factors for heart disease.
- Blood sugar control
Intermittent fasting can improve blood sugar control by reducing insulin resistance and increasing insulin sensitivity.
This results in lower fasting blood sugar and glycated hemoglobin – HbA1c – levels.
In fact, experimental research on adult men with type 2 diabetes has shown the potential of intermittent fasting as a therapeutic approach that can reduce the need for insulin therapy.
- Changes in body composition
Weight and body composition changes are among the most studied effects of intermittent fasting.
Several studies have shown that weight loss of between 3 and 7% of body weight in an average of 8 weeks is achievable with intermittent fasting.
Research has also noted that this method can lead to fat loss.
Fasting on a 14:10 pattern — a 10-hour eating window and a daily 14-hour fast — may work on metabolic syndrome risk factors, including reducing waist circumference, body fat percentage, and visceral fat.