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Is the Wait Worth It? What You Should Know About Intermittent Fasting

Is the Wait Worth It? What You Should Know About Intermittent Fasting

Thursday, April 7, 2022


We all know we should embrace a healthy lifestyle. Good nutrition … exercise … taking care of our bodies … these are the tenets we should follow. But it isn’t always easy. And for those who are overweight, there is often a struggle to find a diet plan that works long-term.  


Most have tried fad diets over the years. It seems there’s a new one every day. Recently, there has been a lot of attention to a diet called intermittent fasting. If you’re thinking of trying it, you should arm yourself with knowledge and talk with your doctor first. 


What is intermittent fasting? 

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that includes hours or days of no or little food without depriving you of essential nutrients. There are different patterns to choose from with intermittent fasting. These include alternate day fasting, 5:2 intermittent fasting (fasting two days each week), and daily time-restricted fasting feeding (such as eating only during a six-hour window). 


Studies point to health benefits 

Intermittent fasting is being heavily researched with some exciting outcomes. The diet is more sustainable because it can be a lifestyle change. Before trying an intermittent fasting diet, you should talk with your doctor. You may also benefit from working with a registered dietitian on the appropriate length of fasting but the general recommendation is 16:8 (fast for 16 hours, non-fast for 8 hours, following a healthy diet).  


Evidence from decades of research points to wide-ranging health benefits of intermittent fasting, according to a National Institute of Aging (NIA)-conducted review of the research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Still, more research is needed on whether intermittent fasting benefits or is even feasible when practiced over the long term, such as for years. 


Intermittent fasting benefits that research has revealed: 

  • Thinking and memory. Studies discovered that intermittent fasting boosts working memory in animals and verbal memory in adult humans. 

  • Heart health. Intermittent fasting improved blood pressure and resting heart rates as well as other heart-related measurements. 

  • Physical performance. Young men who fasted for 16 hours showed fat loss while maintaining muscle mass. Mice who were fed on alternate days showed better endurance in running. 

  • Diabetes and obesity. In animal studies, intermittent fasting prevented obesity. And in six brief studies, obese adult humans lost weight through intermittent fasting. 

  • Tissue health. In animals, intermittent fasting reduced tissue damage in surgery and improved results. 


People who should steer clear of trying intermittent fasting: 

  • Children and teens under age 18. 

  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. 

  • People with diabetes or blood sugar problems. 

  • Those with a history of eating disorders. 


Eating behaviors can be hard to change 

There are behaviors that can be hard to break with intermittent fasting, including the three-meals-a-day plan that most people follow. Food is everywhere, all day long. Discipline is key in shifting to a new eating pattern. Many physicians and nutritionists do not think intermittent fasting should be followed. Physicians who endorse intermittent fasting often encourage their patients to adopt a gradual, phased-in schedule in consultation with a dietitian or nutritionist. 


Talk to your doctor 

As with any eating plan you may be considering, you should talk with your doctor before beginning. Eating plans that work for some do not work for all. Your doctor is the expert in helping you find the eating plan that is right for you.  


Genesis HealthCare System’s Health and Wellness content conveniently provides accurate and helpful information. Your health history and current health may impact suggestions provided through our Health and Wellness content. Although we hope this information is helpful, it is not a substitute for your doctor's medical advice. Before making any significant changes, please consult your doctor.