A recent study revealed that intermittent fasting can help with heart health, improve blood chemistry and reduce the risk of diabetes. The study, published in Nutrition Research, looked at the benefits of time-restricted feeding – in particular, the 16:8 intermittent fasting method – in healthy college men.
“What we are doing is time-restricted feeding. It is a way to use fasting each day to promote various aspects of cardiometabolic health,” explained lead author Matthew McAllister.
The 16:8 intermittent fasting method involves consuming food and drinks in a set window of eight hours and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. During the fasting period, the person cannot consume anything except water.
A total of 22 men were enrolled in the study. All participants were asked to do 16:8 intermittent fasting for 28 days. Some participants were allowed to eat as much as they wanted during the eight hours, while others had their caloric intake controlled.
The researchers took blood samples at baseline and at the end of the study to evaluate biomarkers for diabetes. Based on the results, the differences in caloric intake did not seem to affect either group. However, both showed significant reductions in body fat and blood pressure and an increase in adiponectin and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
Adiponectin is a fat-derived hormone that appears to protect the body from insulin resistance, diabetes and atherosclerosis. Having low adiponectin levels may increase a person’s risk of having Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.
Meanwhile, HDL absorbs excess cholesterol in the blood and carries it back to the liver, where it’s broken down and flushed out of the body. High HDL levels reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke; hence, the moniker “good” cholesterol.
“My initial thought was that if you are going to restrict the time, you would eat fewer calories. And the reduction of daily calories would cause weight loss and other health benefits,” McAllister added. “But these benefits are found with no change in caloric intake—things like loss in body fat, reduced blood pressure, reduced inflammation.”
Intermittent fasting: take in less, have more
These days, fast food and other food-related services make it hard not to grab a bite every single hour. Indeed, this makes fasting a challenge; however, the benefits you can get from fasting – which are evidence-based – far outweigh the temptations. (Related: Can intermittent fasting lower your risk of osteoporosis?)
Other benefits of intermittent fasting, aside from those mentioned above, include the following.
- It helps with cell repair.
- It regulates insulin levels, which help with fat burning.
- It reduces oxidative stress and inflammation.
- It reduces the risk of certain cancers.
- It improves brain function and reduces the risk of neurodegenerative disorders.
Having a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and protein will increase the efficiency of intermittent fasting. On the other hand, having an unhealthy diet during the fast can negate its positive effects. In addition, eating too much during the meal period to compensate for the energy lost may lead to unhealthy eating habits, as well as weight gain and digestive problems.
If you’re looking to get into intermittent fasting, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional before starting. Some side effects of intermittent fasting – especially if it isn’t done properly – include bloating, diarrhea, brain fog and headaches.
For more on the health benefits of intermittent fasting, you can check out Fasting.news.