Study: Intermittent Fasting May Lower Risk of Heart Disease & Diabetes

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Popular diet trend could reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease
Eating your daily calories within a consistent window of 8-10 hours is a powerful strategy to prevent and manage chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, according to a new manuscript published in the Endocrine Society’s journal, Endocrine Reviews.

Intermittent fasting, eating little or nothing on certain days of the week or eating only during certain hours of the day, is one of the most popular diet trends, and for many, it’s an easier way to lose weight. 

Previous Studies Consistently Hinted
In a 2017 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, people who fasted every other day lost roughly the same amount of weight as those counting calories. 

“People who are trying to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle should pay more attention to when they eat as well as what they eat. Time-restricted eating is an easy-to-follow and effective dietary strategy that requires less mental math than counting calories,” said Satchidananda Panda, Ph.D., of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif.

The health benefits, however, appeared to extend beyond weight loss. “Intermittent fasting improved sleep and a person’s quality of life as well as reducing the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease,” Dr. Panda continued.

In a 2020 study in the journal Cell Metabolism, intermittent fasting helped a group of women with symptoms such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and at a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. When the women only ate within a 10-hour window during the day, they had lower blood pressure, better cholesterol, and fewer blood sugar spikes.

Additionally other research in 2019 showed that intermittent fasting lowered chronic inflammation. Inflammation that damages blood vessels and increases the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

Intermittent fasting seems to work because the human body evolved to store food as fat to fuel you when food is scarce. Having longer time periods when we don’t eat seems to help our bodies perform their best.

Newest Study Offers Convincing Evidence
In the latest Endocrine Reviews manuscript, the researchers explore the science behind time-restricted eating, recent clinical studies and the scope for future research to better understand its health benefits. Recent research has revealed that genes, hormones and metabolism rise and fall at different times of the 24-hour day. Aligning our daily habit of when we eat with the body’s internal clock can optimize health and reduce the risk or disease burden of chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and liver disease.

“Eating at random times breaks the synchrony of our internal program and make us prone to diseases,” said Panda. “Intermittent fasting is a lifestyle that anyone can adopt. It can help eliminate health disparities and lets everyone live a healthy and fulfilling life.”

Before implementing your own fasting regimen, though, it's very important to discuss various intermittent fasting strategies with your doctor or a nutritionist in order to do it safely and healthfully.

Reference: “Time-restricted eating for the prevention and management of metabolic diseases” by Emily N Manoogian, Lisa S Chow, Pam R Taub, Blandine Laferrère and Satchidananda Panda, 22 September 2021, Endocrine Reviews. DOI: 10.1210/endrev/bnab027

Other authors of the study include: Emily Manoogian of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies; Lisa Chow of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minn.; Pam Taub of the University of California, San Diego, in La Jolla, Calif.; and Blandine Laferrère of the Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York, N.Y.

Also worth noting is that the study received funding from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the National Institute on Aging, the National Cancer Institute, the Larry l. Hillblom Foundation, the Wu Tsai Human Performance Alliance, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Dr. Mark L. Meyer Dr. Meyer graduated from Haverford College with a Bachelor of Science, High Honors, in cellular and molecular biology, Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude. He attended the Yale University School of Medicine, where he also completed a categorical residency in Internal Medicine, served for one year as an Emergency Department attending physician, and held the title of Clinical Instructor in the Department of Surgery. During this time, Dr. Meyer obtained a J.D. from the Yale Law School, concentrating on medical ethics, scientific research law, and FDA law. He then completed a fellowship in Cardiovascular Diseases at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where he obtained Level 3 Nuclear Cardiology training.

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