Intermittent fasting is hot, but it is far from being a new topic. For one, many celebrities attribute their weight loss to it.
“We know intermittent fasting improves metabolism and health,” said Courtney Peterson, assistant professor at UAB’s Department of Nutrition Sciences and one of the researchers in the study. “However, we didn’t know whether these effects are simply because people ate less and lost weight.”
Peterson and her team decided to test the effects of early time-restricted feeding (eTRF). In this method, a person is allowed to eat only within a set period (usually 10 hours or shorter) every day. It is different from conventional intermittent fasting in that meals are taken earlier to account for your circadian rhythm. For example, in eTRF, a person will dinner during the mid-afternoon, and spend the rest of the day fasting.
For the study, the researchers recruited eight men diagnosed as prediabetic. They were told to follow eTRF for five weeks and to eat at normal American meal times for another five weeks. In the eTRF schedule, the subjects ate within a six-hour period (between 6:30 to 8:30 and no later than three in the afternoon) and fasted for the remaining 18 hours. In the American schedule, the men were allowed to eat their meals over a 12-hour period.
In both schedules, the participants had the same food, which the researchers carefully monitored to make sure that the men ate at the correct times.
Peterson and her colleagues found that eTRF led to better insulin sensitivity, which leads to improved blood sugar control. It also lowered blood pressure and oxidative stress, as well as appetite levels, especially in the evening.
The findings of the study debunk the common belief that the benefits of intermittent fasting stem from eating less. It proves that you can reap the perks regardless of what you eat.
Moreover, the study affirms that eating early in accordance with your circadian rhythm is more beneficial than eating late.
“If you eat late at night, it’s bad for your metabolism,” Peterson explained. “Our bodies are optimized to do certain things at certain times of the day, and eating in sync with our circadian rhythms seem to improve our health in multiple ways. For instance, our body’s ability to keep our blood sugar under control is better in the morning than it is in the afternoon and evening, so it makes sense to eat most of our food in the morning and early afternoon.”
The research offers insight into potentially better ways to manage conditions like diabetes and hypertension.
Other benefits of intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is largely popular among those who want to lose pounds and the extra inches in their belly. Its benefits, however, do not stop there.
Evidence suggests it can help in cellular repair by initiating the waste removal process called autophagy. This allows for the removal of broken and dysfunctional proteins, preventing them from building up inside the cells and causing damage. It is this effect of fasting that makes it a potentially effective means to prevent serious conditions like cancer.
By reducing oxidative stress, blood sugar, and blood pressure, intermittent fasting can help maintain the health of your nerves. Apart from helping maintain proper brain function, fasting can also aid in protecting you from a slew of neurodegenerative conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease.
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