Intermittent Fasting “Could be Part of a Healthy Lifestyle”

Baltimore, MD—Intermittent fasting “could be part of a healthy lifestyle,” according to new research from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Neuroscientist Mark Mattson, Ph.D., hopes that his new article will help clarify the science and clinical applications of intermittent fasting so that physicians can help guide patients who want to try it, according to a press release. Mattson notes that intermittent fasting diets come in two forms: time-restricted eating, limiting eating to a 6-8 hour period of time each day, and 5:2 fasting, in which people limit themselves to one moderate-sized meal two days each week.

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The release says that several animal and some human studies have shown that intermittent fasting supports cellular health, possibly by triggering metabolic switching, which is when cells use up their stores of sugar-based fuel and begin converting fat into energy in a slower metabolic process.

Studies show that this switch improves blood sugar regulation, increases resistance to stress, and suppresses inflammation. Mattson adds that intermittent fasting has been found to decrease blood pressure, blood lipid levels, and resting heart rates; it may also increase insulin sensitivity, and preliminary studies suggest that it may benefit brain health.

“We are at a transition point where we could soon consider adding information about intermittent fasting to medical school curricula alongside standard advice about healthy diets and exercise,” Mattson says. However, he adds that those who try it should be warned: “Feeling hungry and irritable is common initially and usually passes after two weeks to a month as the body and brain become accustomed to the new habit.” Mattson recommends that physicians advise patients to gradually increase the duration and frequency of the fasting periods over the course of several months.

It’s worth noting that this diet is not for everybody, according to Guy L. Mintz, MD, Director of Cardiovascular Health and Lipidology at Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital. USA Today cites Dr. Mintz as saying that “Intermittent fasting may not be a good diet for diabetic patients on medications and/or insulin that could have swings in blood sugar. Intermittent fasting is not for older patients; hypoglycemia needs to be watched, which can lead to falls.” He also notes that most clinical studies have worked with overweight young and middle-aged adults, so patients in other age groups or who are not overweight may want to avoid intermittent fasting.