BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - 'Intermittent fasting' is the term given to a number of eating styles that have been popularized in the past few years as an aid to weight loss, improved hormonal balance, and potential increase in longevity. Although it might seem to go against the grain of traditional dietary advice that a combination of decreased calorie intake coupled with increased exercise is the healthiest method sustain weight loss, dietary scientists have been looking at a variety of studies that show promise for those who have not succeeded in their battle of the bulge.
First, let me warn that this is not a change that all should make. Those who have a metabolic disease such as diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease, or a number of gastrointestinal conditions that can affect the absorption of nutrients should not consider this option without consultation with their physician. Yet for many of us, this may be a reasonable option provided we do it safely.
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For years anthropologists have noted that hunter-gathering tribesman living like our ancestors will often have periods of relative abundance of food, followed by scarcity and this pattern of eating can lead to apparent healthy outcomes. Indeed, it often has been observed that when these 'primitive communities' get a more abundant diet after contact with their more 'civilized' farming neighbors, that is when obesity, diabetes and many other chronic diseases seem to arise.
Going without food, though continuing to take in adequate fluids, for periods as short as 14-16 hours per day will allow the body's metabolic switch to turn in the direction of burning fat as well as improving the level of metabolic hormones such as norepinephrine and insulin. One way this can be done by just eating a healthy breakfast and lunch, then having only a light low-calorie supper such as a bowl of broth or a tall glass of water or mug of tea with crackers before 4 pm to allow a 16 hour cycle before the next breakfast at 8 am. Another style of eating for those who are not breakfast fans would be to take the first meal at noon, eat a healthy lunch and supper but no food after 8 pm to establish that 16 fast until noon the next day. Yet a third way that some have done this is to eat three healthy meals five days per week, and then for two days out of the week fast by taking in no more than 600 calories, again with plenty of water, on those fasting days. Many of the proponents of intermittent fasting will point out that it is very different from just skipping meals only to binge on food at a later time which can set up the classic yo-yo of loss and gain. Instead they advise that one should make a long-term commitment to one of six established eating patterns that utilize these principles*(www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-ways-to-do-intermittent-fasting)
I have to admit that I love food so much that any of these dietary plans would be challenging for me. But I do believe that for those looking at the significant risks of obesity and its long-term effects on overall health and longevity, it might be reasonable to research these options and consider a one-month trial of this pattern of eating. However, no matter what you decide to try, don't forget the basic dietary advice: cut way back or eliminate sugary drinks, or foods with added sugars, processed starches or rich sauces. Instead, eat mainly fresh vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. If you utilize animal products focus on lean meats and low-fat dairy. Last but not least, exercise!! Most of us would benefit from 30-60 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise daily if possible. Remember, January is resolution time and there is room for improvement in all of us!