Research conducted on fat rats showed a ton of incredibly promising intermittent fasting (IF). They lost weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and improvement in blood sugars but they’re rats. Studies conducted in humans showed that almost across the board, have shown that IF is safe and incredibly effective, but really no more effective than any other diet. In addition, fasting is difficult for many people.
But a growing body of research recommends that the key to fast is timing, and can make IF a more realistic, sustainable, and effective approach for weight loss, as well as for diabetes prevention.
The backstory on intermittent fasting
IF as a weight loss approach has been around in several forms for ages, but was highly popularized in 2012. A steady positive buzz is generated by IF as anecdotes of its effectiveness proliferated.
Intermittent fasting can help weight loss
Intuitive sense is made by IF. Enzymes break the food we eat in the gut and eventually ends up as molecules in bloodstream. Carbohydrates, specifically sugars and refined grains such as white flours and rice, are quickly broken down into sugar, which the cells use for energy. If all is not used by cells, we store it in our fat cells as, well, fat. But sugar can only be entered in cells with insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas. Sugar is brought by insulin into the fat cells and keeps it there.
Between meals, as long as not snacked, the insulin levels will go down and stored sugar is then released by fat cells, to be used as energy. Weight is lost if we let our insulin levels go down. The entire concept of IF is to allow the insulin levels to go down far enough and for long enough that we burn off the fat.
Intermittent fasting can be hard… but maybe it doesn’t have to be
Human studies conducted initially that compared fasting every other day to consuming less every day showed that both worked about equally for weight loss, though days of fasting were struggling for people. So, IF was written as no better or worse than simply eating less, only far more uncomfortable. Just sticking with the sensible, plant-based, Mediterranean-style diet is advised.
New research is suggesting that not all IF approaches are similar, and some are actually very reasonable, effective, and sustainable, especially when mixed with a nutritious plant-based diet.
We have evolved to be in sync with the day/night cycle known as a circadian rhythm. Daytime food and nighttime sleep has been adopted by our metabolism. Risk of obesity is high is nighttime eating, as well as diabetes.
Based on this, researchers conducted a study with a small group of obese men having prediabetes. A form of intermittent fasting called “early time-restricted feeding was compared where all meals were fit into an early eight-hour period of the day (7 am to 3 pm),or spread out over 12 hours (between 7 am and 7 pm). Weight was maintained by both groups that is did not gain or lose but after five weeks, the eight-hours group had dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity, as well as significantly lower blood pressure. The best part is that the eight-hours group also had significantly decreased appetite and weren’t starving.
Just changing the timing of meals, by eating earlier in the day and extending the overnight fast, benefited metabolism significantly even in people who didn’t lose a single pound.
Simply changing the timing of our meals to allow for fasting make a difference in our body was studied in depth. Fasting is evolutionarily embedded within our physiology, several essential cellular functions are triggered. Flipping the switch from a fed to fasting state does more than help us burning calories and losing weight. Dozens of animal and human studies were combed by researchers to explain how simple fasting improves metabolism, lowering blood sugar; lessens inflammation, which improves a range of health issues from arthritic pain to asthma; and even toxins and damaged cells are cleared out, which lowers risk for cancer and enhances brain function.
So, is intermittent fasting as good as it sounds?
Evidence is present to suggest that the circadian rhythm fasting approach, where meals are restricted to a period of eight to 10-hour of the daytime, is effective, though generally it is recommended that people use an eating approach that works for them and is sustainable to them.
Some good scientific evidence is present which recommends that circadian rhythm fasting, when combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle, can be a particularly effective approach to weight loss, especially for people at risk for diabetes.
4 ways to use this information for better health
- Sugars and refined grains to be avoided. Instead, eat fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats (a sensible, plant-based, Mediterranean-style diet).
- Let body burn fat between meals. Don’t snack. Be active throughout the day and build muscle tone.
- A simple form of intermittent fasting to be considered. The hours of the day when you eat should be limited, and for best effect, make it earlier in the day between 7 am to 3 pm, or even 10 am to 6 pm, but definitely not in the evening before bed
- Snacking or eating at nighttime, all the time should be avoided