Intermittent Fasting 101

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Calories in versus calories out--the classic idea for weight management. Recent studies, however, have confirmed that when you eat, calories can be as important as the amount of calories that you consume. Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern in which one eats within a certain time frame then fasts for a period of time. Fasting has been shown to be an effective tool for weight loss and aiding various markers of health. One of the main reasons intermittent fasting is effective for weight loss is due to the action of a hormone known as insulin, in addition to our natural circadian rhythm. Insulin tells our tissues to take up glucose. When insulin levels drop between meals and when we fast, our bodies are able to use the fuel that has been stored in tissues. This process is disrupted if we are constantly eating and telling our tissues to take up nutrients rather than use them. Furthermore, our bodies are better equipped to metabolize foods during the day, when the pathways that breakdown food work more efficiently. Intermittent fasting can seem intimidating at first, but fasting doesn’t have to mean feeling hungry or going days without food.

A recent study showed that, compared to the control group, the fasting group had a significantly decreased appetite. Other benefits of intermittent fasting include learning and memory function protection and reduced oxidative stress. At a certain point, the body begins to break down its fat stores to release ketones, which provide this protective effect for brain neurons. Ketones have been shown to be especially beneficial for women’s brain health.  Fasting for periods of 10 to 14 hours can be enough to provide these benefits. Intermittent fasting can be as easy as ending your last meal at 7:00 PM, and waiting to eat again until breakfast the next morning between 5:00 and 9:00 AM. Fasting can offer many benefits for most people, especially those at risk for diabetes because of its positive effect on insulin levels. Certain individuals, such as those with diabetes, a history of eating disorders, or who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult their physician before adopting this eating style.