Intermittent fasting diet backed by scientific evidence, says Johns Hopkins professor

January 3, 2020

The New Year brings about new and renewed commitment to personal health and fitness. Of the many diet options practiced today, intermittent fasting seems to offer much benefit, according to neuroscience professor Mark Mattson at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, US. Now, Mattson has been practicing intermittent fasting for 20 years and claims “intermittent fasting could be part of a healthy lifestyle.”

Intermittent fasting diets generally involve daily time-restricted feeding (eating times of 6-8 hours per day) or weekly 5:2 intermittent fasting (one moderate-sized meal two days per week).

Mattson said multinational studies have previously shown that alternating between times of fasting and eating triggers an innate “metabolic switch” in human bodies. It occurs when cells are depleted of sugar-based fuel and begins converting fat into energy, in a slower metabolic process. This switch apparently supports cellular health,improves blood sugar regulation, increases resistance to stress, and suppresses inflammation.

Intermittent fasting could also modify risk factors linked to obesity and diabetes, as the University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust, UK, found that overweight women – when subjected to the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet – lost the same amount of weight as women who restricted their calorie intake. Notably, these women reported better insulin sensitivity and reduced belly fat than those with reduced calories.

On adopting the practice, Mattson explains that it does take time for the body to adjust to intermittent fasting and to overcome the hunger pangs and irritability that initially accompany it – “feeling hungry and irritable is common and usually passes after two weeks to a month as the body and brain become accustomed to the new habit.”

To ease the process, Mattson suggests gradually increasing the duration and frequency of fasting periods over several months, instead of “going cold turkey.” Mattson said that it is equally important for physicians to know the science behind intermittent fasting so they can communicate potential benefits/dangers and offer support to their patients.

In addition, after an April 2019 trial at the University of Toronto, Canada, found signs of improved memory in some 220 healthy, nonobese adults, Mattson said intermittent fasting could prompt new ways to stave off neurodegeneration and dementia.


Category: Features, Wellness and Complementary Therapies

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