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Fasting has long been a key element of spiritual practices and has a long history in many of the ancient traditional medicine systems around the world.
Today, intermittent fasting — going without calories for a period of time, usually 12 hours or more — continues to gain momentum within the research and health communities.
In fact, scientists and “health hackers” have highlighted numerous benefits that stem from some form of caloric restriction, including reduced risks of life-threatening diseases, healthy weight loss, reversal of aging, and rejuvenation across numerous areas of health.
Considering these trends, it’s important to remember that prolonged fasting or severe calorie restriction can be difficult — possibly dangerous. However, there are ways to reap the benefits of fasting, without the risks of going for long periods without calories.
The solution is to engage in a modified form of fasting, including intermittent fasting (IF) and fasting-mimicking diets (FMD). These methods are much less restrictive, and a growing body of clinical and scientific data suggests these modified forms of fasting can deliver important benefits for key areas of health, including glucose regulation, cardiovascular function, inflammatory response and more.
Emerging research on fasting
One type of intermittent fasting is termed “Time Restrictive Feeding” (TRF), where caloric intake is limited to a specific period during a 24-hour cycle. Participants can eat whatever they want during that window, though experts recommend healthy, unprocessed foods. One of the more popular methods of TRF is the “16/8” approach, where daily caloric intake is limited to an 8-hour window; the remaining 16 hours are the fasting period.
Published studies continue to show the benefits of TRF as well as other forms of intermittent fasting…
- One recent clinical study showed that a TRF diet promoted weight loss and reduced blood pressure in obese individuals.
- A preclinical study showed that TRF effectively reversed the progression of metabolic diseases in mice with pre-existing obesity and type II diabetes, even when the diet was periodically interrupted.
- Another recent observational study showed that intermittent fasting, using an alternate-day fasting program for ten months, eliminated the need for diabetes medication in subjects.
Targeted antioxidants and nutrients
While many proponents of intermittent fasting point out that these types of diets are easier to follow because they allow for diverse foods, experts also assert that the quality of calories can play a critical role.
This is especially important during a “fasting-mimicking diet” where participants periodically restrict calories on certain days, with a focus on foods and supplements containing antioxidants and other important co-factors during that time.
Research continues to demonstrate the benefits of targeted antioxidants and nutrients in supporting healthy glucose balance, insulin function, cardiometabolic health and other related areas.
While the benefits of intermittent fasting continue to emerge in the published literature, it’s important to discuss specific dietary changes with your health provider to ensure optimal results. There is no one size fits all diet, but with slight modifications adapted to each individual, this simple approach to eating may offer a promising strategy to support long-term health and wellness, naturally.
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- Anton SD, et al. Flipping the Metabolic Switch: Understanding and Applying the Health Benefits of Fasting — Obesity (Silver Spring). 2018 Feb;26(2):254-268.
- Gabel K, et al. Effects of 8-hour time restricted feeding on body weight and metabolic disease risk factors in obese adults: A pilot study — Nutr Healthy Aging. 2018 Jun 15;4(4):345-353.
- Furmli S, et al. Therapeutic use of intermittent fasting for people with type 2 diabetes as an alternative to insulin — BMJ Case Rep. 2018 Oct 9;2018. pii: bcr-2017-221854.