Intermittent Fasting versus the Magic Pill!
Updated: Nov 8, 2022
People frequently ask me what I think of intermittent fasting. I humbly (and honestly and respectfully) answer that Intermittent Fasting is a trendy, unsustainable fad. And fads achieve intense, short-lived popularity and then fade away.
Of course, that is an oversimplification. Because intermittent fasting includes different dietary regimens, including:
Calorie restriction - reducing average daily caloric intake below what is typical or habitual, without malnutrition or deprivation of essential nutrients,
Time-restricted eating - when eating is limited to a certain number of hours each day, and:
Fasting - not eating at all or severely limiting intake during certain times of the day, week, or month.
But I still suggest intermittent fasting might be a fad. As I proceed and attempt to prove or disprove my statement, here are some questions that I would like you to contemplate:
Are you currently on a fasting program? Do you want to fast more or differently than you are now doing?
Why do you want to fast?
Do you want to lose weight?
Do you think intermittent fasting will improve your health and simplify your lifestyle?
Are you trying to control your blood sugar?
Is someone you know trying to convince you that you must do this, and are you curious?
As you formulate your answers, realize that Fasting and calorie restriction are essential for a long, happy, healthy life. They are normal, healthy, and activities we naturally do every day. For most of us, our natural fasting occurs while we sleep; we eat, in the evening, do stuff, go to sleep (without a snack?), sleep, wake up and then, eventually, at some time, break our fast (often referred to as Breakfast!) and move on with our day. Some of us fast for 8, 10, 12 hours, maybe more.
In his book Lifespan, David Sinclair presents scientific evidence supporting the theory that fasting (calorie restriction) is one of the most effective anti-aging strategies (4). But in that case, it is not skipping a meal, like the 16 or 18-hour fast, but rather limiting the number of calories you take in. Professor Sinclair's studies show a reduction of 30% to 40% triggers the anti-aging processes.
Here are some key points showing that regular fasting (or some form of calorie restriction) is essential for a healthy, happy life:
Fasting Increases normal levels of Human Growth Hormone
Fasting can control body weight and composition, muscle gain, and energy metabolism.
Fasting can aid in cellular repair.
Fasting can maintain healthy sugar levels (avoids/improves Insulin sensitivity).
Fasting can help maintain Telomere health, keeping our cells alive longer.
So how did we go from regular daily fasting to today's intermittent fasting craze or fad?
Today's lifestyle has changed our overall diet and our natural fasting cycles. Even 50 years ago, it was easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Johns Hopkins dietitian Christie Williams, M.S., R.D.N., explains: "There were no computers, and T.V. shows turned off at 11 p.m.; people stopped eating because they went to bed. Portions were much smaller. More people worked and played outside and generally got more exercise."
Intermittent fasting is a straightforward concept, sometimes referred to as a diet (only without food). Intermittent fasting has deep historical roots and is used in many religions for spiritual or physical benefits. It is simply a regimen of eating and non-eating on a defined schedule. And while simple, there is no consensus regarding it. But research shows that intermittent fasting can be a way to manage your weight and prevent, or even reverse, some debilitating and preventable diseases. It is a method of caloric restriction, which, as noted, has been documented to have longevity benefits.
Intermittent fasting has become mainstream today due to the severe altering of our natural eating habits: the western diet, our abundance of food, and our inability to control it overconsumption. Other contributors include:
1. Our conflicting and full schedules of work and family
2. Our extracurricular activities. We stay awake for longer hours to catch our favorite shows, play games, and chat online.
3. Our addiction to our phones and television binge-watching. T.V., the internet, and other entertainment are available 24/7.
4. Our reliance on fast-food and home delivery. We're sitting and snacking all day, the Center for Disease Control (C.D.C.), and most of the night.
5. Plus, we can all afford the electricity to keep our lights on (and our televisions or computers running!)
Intermittent fasting is especially attractive to those with eating disorders, which may be the most likely to read this whole blog. (Just because you read the entire article doesn't mean you have a food/eating disorder, but, I have to tell you, it suggests that you are more interested in food consumption than many people.
The National Institutes of Health (N.I.H.), the Center for Disease Control (C.D.C.), and numerous other sources have concluded that modifying dietary and lifestyle risk factors could prevent the most prevalent preventable diseases. Diseases include stroke, cardiovascular diseases, global obesity (6), and diabetes. As the name implies, these diseases are preventable; if we get those diseases, our diet is the most likely cause.
Genetics may play a part in this as well. As has been said: We are all given what we get by way of genes, and we can only mess that up or improve it. In the case of diseases and longevity, forewarned is forearmed. And we need to make sure we are on the "improve it" side unless we are not, which creates a much longer discussion on, "what are we about?"
So, when strategically used, Intermittent Fasting as a modification to our lifestyles can help combat these diseases. But much of the current research points to the fact that Intermittent Fasting will minimally and possibly negatively affect your long-term health and well-being. I.F. has no significant benefits compared with simple calorie restriction in battling obesity.
But do we need to rely on the latest dietary fads such as intermittent fasting to help us live longer, maintain a healthy weight, and avoid preventable diseases? Or can we return to a healthy lifestyle with a natural sleep/eat cycle? We can address that question now that we understand intermittent fasting and its relationship to natural fasting.
Intermittent fasting to get healthy and happy is an evolving science. New clinical trials are helping this dietary strategy evolve, showing that it can ultimately lead to better health.
I still maintain my original supposition: intermittent fasting is an unsustainable fad. It is not a magic pill. Please read next week's Bluerisa Times newsletter, where I will try to prove or debunk that statement.
And while "one pill will make you larger, and one pill will make you small," and "you can take the red or blue pill," there may never be a magic pill.
See you next week.
Your friend and fellow Bluerisa traveler,