Intermittent fasting is gaining popularity. There are claims that it has many virtues, including weight loss and a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. But is it really effective? We’re about to shine a light on intermittent fasting and its effects on health below.
In general, intermittent fasting is described as periods of fasting alternating with periods of normal food consumption. There are different types of intermittent fasting that vary according to the duration and frequency of fasting periods:
1) Alternating fasting
It consists of alternating between days of unrestricted feeding and days of fasting, which last between 24 and 36 hours, one to several times a week.
2) Modified alternating fasting (fasting 5:2)
This is a reduction in calorie intake for two non-consecutive days in the week. Therefore, it includes five days of normal consumption interspersed with two days of intermittent fasting.
3) Temporal restriction (16-18 h fasting /day)
Foods are ingested within a limited period of time daily, typically ranging from 4 to 8 hours a day. This method consists of omitting one or two meals of the day, and this is done every day.
Several studies have examined the effects of intermittent fasting on health, including weight loss and the risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Research suggests that limiting food intake by fasting can improve glycemic control, as measured by a decrease in HbA1c glycated hemoglobin. Fasting can protect against the hypersecretion of insulin and possibly against insulin resistance. On the other hand, the beneficial effects of intermittent fasting on blood glucose and insulin levels seem to be comparable to those of other calorie-restrictive diets.
Some studies indicate that intermittent fasting can have a positive effect on lipid profile and blood pressure, similar to the effects of a traditional low-calorie diet. In contrast, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), current data suggests that an irregular meal schedule is not conducive to heart health. The AHA recommends planning and distributing meals and snacks throughout the day to satisfy appetite and promote portion management. Thus, the adoption of a regular meal schedule including frequent nutritious and balanced meals is to be prioritized for heart health.