Diet revolution – or at least a chance to cook only two meals a day?
Doctors say that Intermittent Fasting (IF) has improved patients’ health – their cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose levels, insulin sensitivity, energy and mental focus – now we are talking! IF may have anti-aging benefits. For those who achieve weight loss, they lose fat not muscle.
Intermittent fasting is a health idea which is trending and several friends have recommended it – so I have done some research . Experts agree that there are not sufficient clinical trials on intermittent fasting to prove the claims made for it, but it has been around for thousands of years, and people report health benefits.
Intermittent fasting describes the timing and pattern of eating – extending times between eating to include a ‘fast’ for 14+ hours. Some people have their first meal at noon, finish dinner by 8 PM and don’t eat for the 16 hours in between. In the extreme, people eat every other day. While eating in an eight hour window or every other day seems radical today, it was not long ago in human history – before refrigeration and microwaves – when people ate large meals every few days, or one large mid-day meal and then ate lightly before bed. Both of these fasting patterns fly in the face of conventional nutritional advice to eat three balanced meals a day and avoid snacks. We are NOT doctors, but since most of us are home and in more control of our meals than usual, here is some information on trying a new eating pattern. Note: Doctors warn that IF is NOT recommended for pregnant and nursing women, children, diabetics or people with eating disorders.
In the Harvard Medical School health publication, Dr. Monique Tello explains that intermittent fasting helps weight loss by keeping insulin levels down.
Intermittent fasting can help weight loss
“IF makes intuitive sense. The food we eat is broken down by enzymes in our gut and eventually ends up as molecules in our bloodstream. Carbohydrates, particularly sugars and refined grains (think white flours and rice), are quickly broken down into sugar, which our cells use for energy. If our cells don’t use it all, we store it in our fat cells as, well, fat. But sugar can only enter our cells with insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas. Insulin brings sugar into the fat cells and keeps it there.
Between meals, as long as we don’t snack, our insulin levels will go down and our fat cells can then release their stored sugar, to be used as energy. We lose weight if we let our insulin levels go down. The entire idea of IF is to allow the insulin levels to go down far enough and for long enough that we burn off our fat.”
“How it works: There are two common approaches to fasting: One is to eat very few calories on certain days, then eat normally the rest of the time. The other involves eating only during certain hours and skipping meals for the rest of each day.
What it promises: Even with free eating periods, fasters tend to take in fewer calories overall, resulting in weight loss. In addition, advocates believe that intentionally depriving your cells of calories may slow the progression of certain age-related diseases.
The upsides: Some people find it easier to have bulletproof willpower for just part of the time than to eat more moderately all of the time. Several small studies have found lower blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels with fasting.
The downsides: Larger, long-term studies are still lacking, so most of the proposed benefits are theoretical or based on animal research.
Mayo’s verdict: There’s simply not enough research (yet) to support or debunk this trend, and shortening your eating window may make it difficult to get the vitamins and minerals you need. Athletes especially may find it difficult to fuel and refuel appropriately for an active lifestyle.
Interested in trying IF? This time sheltering at home is ideal for controlling the things we can control and who minds cooking one less meal?”
A reminder – Do not even consider this if you are pregnant, nursing, a child, have a history of eating disorder, or have a serious health issue. Any doubts, check with your doctor.
This Zero – Fasting Tracker gets good reviews. For iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. Free
The Fastient tracking app makes it easy for you to take notes. Both apps are free with in-app purchases.
BodyFast Intermittent Fasting App helps you track water and offer coaching and meal planning.