As you enter New Year on a sad note that despite gymming and avoiding sugary food for most part of 2019, the fat around your belly refused to go away, it is bell for a New Year resolution: Make intermittent fasting part of your health regime.
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.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine neuroscientist Mark Mattson, studies have shown that this improves blood sugar regulation, increases resistance to stress and suppresses inflammation.
“Intermittent fasting could be part of a healthy lifestyle,” said Mattson who has studied the health impact of intermittent fasting for 25 years, and adopted it himself about 20 years ago.
In the article published in The New England Journal of Medicine, Mattson said that four studies in both animals and people found intermittent fasting also decreased blood pressure, blood lipid levels and resting heart rates.
Alternating between times of fasting and eating supports cellular health, probably by triggering an age-old adaptation to periods of food scarcity called metabolic switching.
Such a switch occurs when cells use up their stores of rapidly accessible, sugar-based fuel, and begin converting fat into energy in a slower metabolic process.
“Evidence is also mounting that intermittent fasting can modify risk factors associated with obesity and diabetes,” said Mattson.
Two studies at the University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust of 100 overweight women showed that those on the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet lost the same amount of weight as women who restricted calories, but did better on measures of insulin sensitivity and reduced belly fat than those in the calorie-reduction group.
More recently, Mattson said, preliminary studies suggest that intermittent fasting could benefit 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 said.
Mattson acknowledged that 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.
With guidance and some patience, most people can incorporate them into their lives.
It takes some time for the body to adjust to intermittent fasting, and to get beyond initial hunger pangs and irritability that accompany it.
“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 noted.