Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences specialists are weighing in on the diet-craze of intermittent fasting and what this diet could offer long term. While weight loss is the primary perk of intermittent fasting, benefits may also include glucose control and managing risks for cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Jenna Anding, Ph.D., RDN, LD, professor and associate department head for the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences and AgriLife Extension specialist, and Karen Geismar, RDN, LD, CNSC, senior lecturer and dietetic internship director for Nutrition and Food Sciences, describe intermittent fasting as periods of fasting for one or more days during the week. What it really comes down to, is creating an eating and non-eating window.
The basics of intermittent fasting
“There is no set way to do intermittent fasting,” Anding said. “Some people fast every other day, while others may fast daily for a period of time each day, such as eating during a set number of hours, like between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. or 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.”
“The best timing will vary from person to person,” she said, “Someone who is interested in trying this method of weight loss would need to consider his/her physical activity schedule, work schedule, family activities, if they take any medication that requires food, etc. You may also have to schedule fasting around social activities and events that include food and/or beverages.”
Health benefits of intermittent fasting
With such variety in methods for intermittent fasting, it is hard to tell which method, if any, is most beneficial, Geismar noted. A few studies with humans suggest there could be some merit to intermittent fasting.
“Most of the studies on the health benefits of intermittent fasting, other than weight loss, focus on benefits of glucose control, cardiovascular risk factors — i.e. total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides — and measured levels of inflammation in the body. All of these are what we call ‘metabolic’ parameters,” Geismar said.
Can intermittent fasting be damaging?
Anding noted that it is still unknown whether or not there are physical or psychological benefits or harm to intermittent fasting.
People who are interested in intermittent fasting and who take medications should check with their physician and/or pharmacist to make sure there is not a negative impact on their medications during fasting days, Anding advised.
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