When the December 2019 New England Journal of Medicine publishes a review article on “Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease,” you know that there is significant scientific interest in fasting for therapeutic purposes. I continue to get asked a lot of questions about IF and know many of you participate in some sort of fasting regime.
Recap: Intermittent fasting (IF) involves extended periods where an individual doesn’t consume calories. The most common form is daily time-restricted feeding, essentially a prolonged overnight fast, where a person will eat in a restricted window, typically six to eight hours. There are Other intermittent fasting protocols that are more intense. There is recent exciting research, older studies, as well as just cultural or religious traditions that all suggest significant benefits of fasting. These benefits include improvements in mental or cognitive performance, physical performance, cardiovascular health, diabetes, and obesity. While the mechanisms are not all worked out, what appears to happen is that mild ketosis ensues during IF. This metabolic switch in the fuel source of the body and brain likely increases metabolic ‘flexibility’ and the efficiency of energy use. Additionally, other mechanisms suggest that IF makes the body more resistant to stress and inflammation. I tell my patients that part of the benefit is just giving the body a longer chance to remove and repair damaged molecules. One of the advantages is that for many people ( some with needed supervision) IF can be worked into their schedules relatively easily, and it is a very low (to no) cost option.
My bottom line: IF has shown to be more effective in men than women. I never want women to tax their adrenals and that can include too much stress or not eating enough. For women to enjoy benefits I suggest doing an IF “lite” and creating a 7-8 hour eating window. Space your meals out and make sure they are nutrient-dense. You’ll be sleeping most of the time you are fasting. Try it out a couple of times a week and see how you feel and if it works for you. I am always searching for the best peer-reviewed science for brain and longevity health. #coachpost