You have probably heard the term "intermittent fasting" bandied about lately and may have thought it was just yet another temporary weight loss fad. It seems, however, that there is medical evidence to show that there are indeed health benefits to this eating regime that can even improve your longevity!
There was an article published in The New England Journal of Medicine written by a couple of savvy neuroscientists from Johns Hopkins Medicine that finds there are two particular forms of intermittent fasting that can have very beneficial effects on your body's overall ability to function and help you to live longer.
To break it down into a nutshell, the fact of eating all your food with a short time period and fasting for the much longer time period forces your body to switch from glucose-based energy to ketone-based energy. This makes perfect sense to me because if you don't provide glucose from eating regularly throughout the day, your body will have to use its stored sources for energy.
It's already been shown that fasting can improve blood pressure and your resting heart rate, which is good for your overall cardiovascular health. And if you are using this method for weight loss, it's common knowledge that excess weight (obesity) leads to a number of health issues and a predisposition for diabetes.
This 2018 study published by the National Institute on Aging conducted on mice showed that the test animals who only ate one meal a day (which means a much longer fasting period) had longer lives and much less risk for age-related problems like liver disease and metabolic disorders.
In addition to lowering your blood pressure, fasting improves your blood sugar regulation. This is turn lowers inflammation and increases stress resistance. All of that contributes to a longer, healthier life.
As I mentioned in the beginning, the recent study indicated that two forms of intermittent fasting are the most effective for health benefits.
The first one is simply restricting your eating time to a limited window each day in the six to eight-hour range. For instance, all your food for the day needs to be consumed from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm for an eight-hour range. You would need to eat nothing before or after those hours. The window and time period are entirely up to you and what works with your schedule.
The second method is called 5:2. Basically you can eat normally for five days during the week and on the other two days, you eat only one moderate-sized meal.
Both methods are flexible and the trick is to make them work for you. There are pitfalls along the way, such as eating too much food (especially unhealthy "junk food") during your window, not getting exercise, and trying to make too many drastic changes at once.
If you decide to try this method remember to look it at as a long term change and concentrate on what makes it work for you. What worked for your best friend or sister-in-law may not suit you.
Remember that intermittent fasting itself doesn't involve eating or not eating specific foods, but instead restricting your eating to within that window and fasting the remaining time. But with that thought in mind, it's also a great time to turn toward more healthy food choices. This regimen also can fit right in with other popular plans such as Paleo, low-carb, or keto diets.
For even more benefits, going to bed with a relatively empty stomach has been shown to improve both sleep and digestion.
If you decide to give this a try you should give it about a week or so and give your body time to adjust. After that, if you want to experiment with changing the window times or length, or varying a 5:2 eating pattern you should give yourself a few days on the new regimen before deciding if it's an improvement.
You may find that intermittent fasting just isn't right for you, and that's fine. But you also may have learned some things about your eating habits that will help to keep you healthier in the long run.
No investment in your health is ever wasted!