Almost a decade ago, I visited my functional medicine PA at Freedom Healthcare and in my bloodwork, there were a few worrisome findings.
I found out that I had elevated blood sugar levels, with which if left unchecked, I was on my way to pre-diabetes. This was a shock to me! I considered myself healthy; I ate well and regularly exercised so this was a surprise to me. After hearing this I set out to reverse my symptoms and figure out the best way to eat for me.
In my research I looked at intermittent fasting (IF). Note: I am not a medical doctor. I am only presenting what current research is saying about intermittent fasting and my own personal journey with it.
The idea behind intermittent fasting is that you have set times that you eat and set times that you fast, in a day or over the space of a week. The main three types of IF are complete alternate-day fasting, modified fasting regimens and time-restricted feeding. Alternate-day fasting involves alternating fasting days. This is where you fast for a whole day – one to two days a week. Modified fasting regimens involves consuming 20%-25% of your energy needs on scheduled fasting days. This is the basis of the popular “5:2 diet” in which you severely restrict for two non-consecutive days, consuming only 500-600 calories on those days, and eating at will for the other five days of the week. In time-restricted fasting, one would eat within specific time frames of a day.
The research is showing some interesting trends in the outcomes of these types of diets. In looking at a metanalysis of the data, for alternate-day fasting, this type of diet suggests that one could achieve a modest weight loss and could lead to an improvement in some metabolic issues (e.g., type 2 diabetes). For modified fasting regimens the research is showing some promising benefits which include weight loss (from 3.5% to 8.0%), with modest effects on glucose markers, lipids and inflammatory markers.
With Time-Restricted feeding, the research is noting that if one can achieve at a minimum of 16 hours between feeds, it has benefits on weight and glucose markers. Overall, both intermittent fasting and periodic fasting have been shown to help with age-related disorders (diabetes, heart disease, different types of cancers, Alzheimer’s & Parkinson’s disease and stroke, weight loss, insulin resistance, reducing oxidative stress, improves cognition, has anti-inflammatory effects, benefits the gut biome and is beneficial for mitochondrial health.
Intermittent fasting regimens may be a promising approach to losing weight and improving metabolic health for people who can handle intervals of not eating or eating very little for certain hours or certain days of the week. This could have great public health benefits as it is simple to do and requires no extra money for diet program fees. There are quite a few apps available to help people track their intermittent fasting journeys. Some are free and some are paid and may be beneficial for help in tracking times and foods. Search “intermittent fasting” in the app store and you can choose from there.
I started intermittent fasting about eight years ago. I generally go 16 hours between dinner and breakfast the next day. For me, IF completely changed my blood work over time. My insulin, leptin and c-reactive proteins all decreased significantly, and I was able to take myself out of the dangerous ranges. I do not do it for weight loss per se, but for what it does for my body internally. I had to quit IF with each pregnancy, but I was able to get back to it again after my babies were born. It is a lifestyle for me which has proven to be helpful.
If you are having similar health issues, talk to your doctor about trying IF and it may prove to be helpful for you.