Obesity is a health risk, so is diabetes. One diet has been shown to modify risk factors associated with the two. What is it?
John Hopkins Medicine neuroscientist Mark Mattson has found the answer.
Published in The New England Journal of Medicine, Mattson writes: “Intermittent fasting could be part of a healthy lifestyle.”
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern whereby somebody alternates between eating and fasting.
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Specifically, Mattson states intermittent fasting falls into two categories.
The first category is “daily time-restricting feeding” – this narrows the time allowed to eat up to eight hours per day.
Then there’s the “5:2 intermittent fasting”. This is when people limit themselves to one moderate-sized meal twice a week.
The science behind intermittent fasting is that the eating pattern is thought to “trigger metabolic switching”.
This is an age-old adaptation to periods of food scarcity, whereby “cells use up their stores of rapidly accessible, sugar-based fuel, and begin converting fat into energy in a slower metabolic process.”
Mattson adds that metabolic switching improves blood sugar regulation – and uncontrolled blood sugar is symptomatic of diabetes.
He also confirms that metabolic switching increases a person’s resistance to stress and suppresses inflammation,
Other health benefits associated with intermittent fasting has been recorded as decreasing blood pressure, blood lipid levels and resting heart rates.
“Evidence is also mounting that intermittent fasting can modify risk factors associated with obesity and diabetes,” said Mattson.
He based his conclusion on two studies at the University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust.
One hundred overweight women showed that those on the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet lost the same amount of weight as women who restricted calories.
However, those on the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet had better insulin sensitivity and reduced belly fat than those in the calorie-reduction group.
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Obesity is linked to various health issues, such as type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.
The NHS confirms that being overweight can also encourage breast or bowel cancer. And it’s a risk factor for having a stroke.
The health body adds: “Obesity can also affect your quality of life and lead to psychological problems, such as depression and low self-esteem.”
And it stresses that “it’s very important to take steps to tackle obesity”.
Mattson noted: “We are at a transition point where we could soon consider adding information about intermittent fasting to medical school curricula alongside standard advice about healthy diets and exercise.”
For those wanting to try out intermittent fasting, Mattson gives a precaution.
“Feeling hungry and irritable is common initially, and usually passes after two weeks to a month as the body and brain become accustomed to the new habit.”
Instead of going straight into intermittent fasting, Mattson advises people to gradually increase the duration and frequency of the fasting period over several months.
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