Can Fasting Diets Improve Your Health? This is What the Experts Have to Say
A simple Google search of “fasting for health” will instantly give you over 6 million hits, with doctors, fitness coaches, and bloggers all advocating for the effectiveness of this lifestyle choice. But, what does medical science actually say about the effectiveness of fasting for health benefits?
According to the director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center at Yale University, Dr. David Katz, your kidneys, liver, and spleen work every day to eliminate toxins from the body to keep the cells healthy. So, by limiting the amount of food you consume, and therefore the additional toxins, there does exist a potential biological benefit to intermittent fasting. But, the keyword “potential” remains still.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
The basic premise of intermittent fasting is to shift the attention from what you consume to what time you consume it. This form of dieting does not restrict calories, rather it prescribes times throughout the day during which you can eat and when you have to fast.
For example, one form of intermittent fasting is the 5:2 model, in which you normally eat without any restrictions for 5 days in a week and fast for the remaining 2, taking only 500-600 calories throughout the day.
Another form of intermittent fasting is the 16:8 model, in which you fast for a 16-hour stretch in a day and eat for the remainder 8 hours. The model varies from person to person, as not everyone can manage to stay hungry for long stretches. Therefore, advocates of the diet recommend starting your body off easy, with a simpler model, and gradually increasing the fasting time.
What Are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
Much evidence has been gathered, which touts the many benefits of fasting:
1. It might improve heart health- A study conducted by the director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, Dr. Horne, concluded that chances of heart disease could be limited through the fasting diet. The study analyzed 200 women and men, noting that those fasted once a month reduced their likelihood of getting heart diseases by 58%.
2. It might decrease the chance of diabetes- Another study conducted by Dr. Horne, which analyzed 30 healthy adults for one day after they ate normally and another when they were fasting. The study noted an increase in the growth hormone after fasting, which enables the body to burn excess fat and protects lean muscle mass.
3. It might decrease the growth of cancer cells- In 2016, research carried out on rodents by the director of the Longevity Institute at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology in Los Angeles, Dr. Longo, concluded that the immune system was able to identify and attack cancer cells through a combination of chemotherapy and a fasting-mimicking diet.
The Bottom Line
While there has been significant research outlining the benefits of intermittent fasting, other work in the medical field has also highlighted its failure in certain instances. Therefore, the final word remains inconclusive, and the best thing to say at this time is that you can only figure out whether or not it works for you by trying it out yourself.
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