Intermittent fasting has been the most popular trend for many years in the health & fitness world. The chances are that you might have come across someone who religiously believes in this particular dietary lifestyle.
Globally, millions of people believe that intermittent fasting is the secret to a longer and healthier life. But can this be backed by research?
Have you been considering the intermittent fasting route to shed some weight or to improve your health?
If so, read this article to take a closer look at this dietary strategy and understand the research behind it.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that cycles between a long period of fasting and a short period of unrestricted eating.
What makes IF unique is that it entirely focuses on the timing of food consumption rather than the food itself. The most common intermittent fasting method involves a 16 hour fast daily.
The Story Behind The Popularity
Dieting as a concept dates back to several hundred years. The ritual has been described in both religious books as well as in texts by philosophers like Socrates and Plato.
Even though dieting has been around for centuries, the concept of IF gained popularity only in the 21st century.
A BBC journalist named Dr. Michael Mosley initially popularized this concept in 2012 with the help of his documentary and book. The initial buzz created by Mosley’s book was followed by the positive buzz created by Kate Harrison’s and Dr. Jason Fung’s books, making the concept of intermittent fasting more widely known.
Intermittent Fasting Methods
People follow different intermittent fasting cycles worldwide. Depending on the individual, this dietary strategy involves the process of splitting the day or the week into a pre-planned eating and fasting cycle.
While IF fasting method can vary from one individual to another, here are some of the most common strategies:
- The 16/8 Method- This popular method consists of a 16 hour fasting period and an 8-hour eating window. People who use this strategy usually skip breakfast and eat lunch and dinner
- The Alternate Day Fasting Method – This method alternates between days of no food restrictions with days that consist of only one meal.
- The Eat-Stop-Eat Method – In this method, people usually fast for one or two days a week.
Scientifically Proven Health Benefits
Intermittent fasting is widely promoted and believed to aid weight loss, improve blood pressure & monitor cholesterol levels. But are these claims scientifically proven?
Scientifically, calorie restrictions at large have shown to improve the overall life span in many animals. Despite that, there is not enough evidence to prove that this would work for humans as well. In addition to that, the existing research on this diet strategy has varied opinions.
For instance, in an article published by Harvard Medical School, Dr. Deborah Wexler explains that there is “evidence to suggest that the circadian rhythm fasting approach, where meals are restricted to an eight to 10-hour period of the daytime, is effective”.
While Dr. Deborah Wexler talks about the positive effects of intermittent fasting, various other researchers raise various concerns with this diet. Researchers across the globe say that there is not enough evidence to conclude the effects on IF. In fact, some believe that this diet may not work for many as people have the tendency to overeat during the non-fasting cycles to compensate for the loss of calories.
There is both good and bad scientific evidence regarding intermittent fasting. So this lifestyle choice might not be suitable for everyone. If you wish for an improvement in your overall physical health it is best to consult an expert nutritionist before changing your diet.