Is intermittent fasting beneficial?

If there is one thing we could all do to significantly extend our lifespan, it would be restricting calories by eating less. This seems to imply that fasting could improve health. Or does it?

According to the J Nutr Biochem(2005), Beneficial effects of intermittent fasting and caloric restriction on the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems:

Abstract

Intermittent fasting (IF; reduced meal frequency) and caloric restriction (CR) extend lifespan and increase resistance to age-related diseases in rodents and monkeys and improve the health of overweight humans. Both IF and CR enhance cardiovascular and brain functions and improve several risk factors for coronary artery disease and stroke including a reduction in blood pressure and increased insulin sensitivity. Cardiovascular stress adaptation is improved and heart rate variability is increased in rodents maintained on an IF or a CR diet. Moreover, rodents maintained on an IF regimen exhibit increased resistance of heart and brain cells to ischemic injury in experimental models of myocardial infarction and stroke. The beneficial effects of IF and CR result from at least two mechanisms–reduced oxidative damage and increased cellular stress resistance. Recent findings suggest that some of the beneficial effects of IF on both the cardiovascular system and the brain are mediated by brain-derived neurotrophic factor signaling in the brain. Interestingly, cellular and molecular effects of IF and CR on the cardiovascular system and the brain are similar to those of regular physical exercise, suggesting shared mechanisms. A better understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which IF and CR affect the blood vessels and heart and brain cells will likely lead to novel preventative and therapeutic strategies for extending health span.

Source

Laboratory of Neurosciences, National Institute on Aging Intramural Research Program, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA. mattsonm@grc.nia.nih.gov

It looks like fasting could help many people, but do not do it without getting the okay from a medical professional since it can be dangerous for people with certain conditions. Safer than fasting would be to simply restrict calories by eating less.

You could of course just eat a lot less of what you normally eat, but perhaps a better way of doing this would be to adopt a healthier diet, like adopting a Mediterranean or whole foods vegetarian diet(or better yet, a Mediterranean vegan diet). These diets have almost the same health benefits as caloric restriction since they exclude or minimize many foods with high calories.

Primary Prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet:

Among persons at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events. (Funded by the Spanish government’s Instituto de Salud Carlos III and others; Controlled-Trials.com number, ISRCTN35739639.).

Health Effects of Vegan Diet(2009):

Abstract

Recently, vegetarian diets have experienced an increase in popularity. A vegetarian diet is associated with many health benefits because of its higher content of fiber, folic acid, vitamins C and E, potassium, magnesium, and many phytochemicals and a fat content that is more unsaturated. Compared with other vegetarian diets, vegan diets tend to contain less saturated fat and cholesterol and more dietary fiber. Vegans tend to be thinner, have lower serum cholesterol, and lower blood pressure, reducing their risk of heart disease. However, eliminating all animal products from the diet increases the risk of certain nutritional deficiencies. Micronutrients of special concern for the vegan include vitamins B-12 and D, calcium, and long-chain n-3 (omega-3) fatty acids. Unless vegans regularly consume foods that are fortified with these nutrients, appropriate supplements should be consumed. In some cases, iron and zinc status of vegans may also be of concern because of the limited bioavailability of these minerals.

Source

Department of Nutrition and Wellness, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI, USA. wcraig@andrews.edu

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7 responses to “Is intermittent fasting beneficial?

  1. Great post! I watched a documentary about this a couple weeks ago. 🙂

  2. Thanks! I’ll look into it.

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