The Latest Dietary Health Advice- Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss
Listen to Part I of the blog in under 8-minutes here.
Intermittent fasting has become a popular trend in the health and fitness industry. With its origins steeped in tradition and religion, it has transformed into a therapeutic modality and as a treatment protocol for almost every condition.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
It’s Not Caloric Restriction
Most people are aware of caloric restriction (CR) in the form of dieting. However, fasting differs from restricting food where meal frequency is kept constant, but food quantity is lowered. It is also not starvation, in which eating insufficient amounts of nutrients and food density for maintaining life can lead to death.
There have been some impressive studies for caloric restriction in regard to cardiovascular outcomes and longevity. It’s important to note that in these trials, calories were reduced, but nutrients were adequate. In today’s diet culture, this would be hard to accomplish without supervision and obsessive tracking. Unless one is well-versed in nutritional science and does not have a history of disordered eating and nutrient insufficiencies, this is probably not wise to pursue alone.
It is Another Form of Restriction- In Time
Recently, researchers have been examining the benefits of restricting foods by different means. Intermittent fasting is about decreasing the allowable time for food intake, not the amount.
There are variations in the types of intermittent fasting (1,2). The most popular, 16/8, includes not eating for 16 hours a day, and narrowing the feeding period to 8 hours. Many in the paleolithic and ketogenic communities are also recommending avoidance of carbohydrates and high protein during the 8 hours of eating. This is combining time restriction with dietary restrictions.
Other variations include the 5:2 method (eating 500 calories for 2 days a week), overnight fasting of 12 hours or more (usually involving skipping breakfast), or not eating completely on certain days (eat-stop-eat).
Intermittent fasting has become a means for fitness gurus and health advocates to keep their physique in peak shape. Many integrative doctors are also suggesting it as a dietary approach for longevity and overall health.
According to a 2015 review in Cell Metabolism:
In many clinics, patients are now monitored by physicians while undergoing water only or very low calorie (less than 200 kcal/day) fasting periods lasting from 1 week or longer for weight management, and for disease prevention and treatment.
We now know that fasting results in ketogenesis, promotes potent changes in metabolic pathways and cellular processes such as stress resistance, lipolysis and autophagy, and can have medical applications that in some cases are as effective as those of approved drugs such as the dampening of seizures and seizure-associated brain damage and the amelioration of rheumatoid arthritis (Bruce-Keller et al., 1999; Hartman et al., 2012; Muller et al., 2001).
As detailed in the remainder of this article, findings from well-controlled investigations in experimental animals, and emerging findings from human studies, indicate that different forms of fasting may provide effective strategies to reduce weight, delay aging, and optimize health.
A Brief Review of the Complexity of Studies
The mechanisms for fasting are very complex with many intricate details and interactions. I admit, for me, it can get a bit mind-boggling to follow all the pathways.
For healthy males, there seems to be evidence of efficiency, although these trials are of relatively small sample size and for short term periods (usually weeks to less than a year). (6, 7, 8,9) One 10-week double-blind crossover study that tested intermittent fasting, with or without antioxidants, deemed it unlikely to be harmful and that it could be beneficial by effecting certain biological pathways related to longevity and metabolism (SIRT3 and insulin). Still, the authors stated more research is needed.
In the short-term, as noted in the 2015 review above, intermittent fasting also appears to have intriguing outcomes for clinical conditions monitored by physicians.
Concerns for Women
As I explained in a previous blog, I have several concerns about intermittent fasting, especially for women. Clinicians have reported that intermittent fasting may fuel eating disorders and cause fertility issues and amenorrhea, even if deemed beneficial for weight loss.
A six-month, randomized study sought to determine the effects of caloric restriction (CR) and intermittent fasting (IF) with 107 premenstrual women considered to be obese. The two groups experienced a 25% reduction in energy requirements either twice weekly (IR group) or as caloric restriction daily (CR group). Both interventions resulted in weight loss and comparable shifts in metabolic markers. There were “modest” reductions in insulin response and insulin resistance that were leaning to be more favorable to intermittent fasting.
There was also decreased adherence to both diets and lower levels of circulating hormones. The authors reported this may be helpful for hormonally-driven cancers, but it is also confirming that women should be cautious and of form of restriction of food, as it can affect endocrine functioning.
Are we moving forward too fast with emerging evidence before the full picture is given?
In Part II, I review five more caveats, including the issues related to:
- Extrapolating Benefits from Rodents
- The Fad Potential
- How It Can Lead to Extremes
- Generalizing vs. Individualizing
- Gaps Still Existing in Research
- Removing Culture, Pleasure, and Social Context from Food
Click here to read more.
Taking a Break from Diet Talk to Enjoy Treats and Tricks
Let’s divert for a minute and take a break from dietary rules and think about how to enjoy life beyond obsessing over what you should eat, when, where, and how. Here are three self-care tips that promote health using my favorite tool.
1. Give Yourself Some Pre-Holiday Treats of Self-Soothing Oils
Here’s some ideas at the end of this post.
2. Sniff Your Way into Calm
Rather than obsessing over cravings and monitoring food intake, how about nurturing yourself and calming your brain with your favorite essential oils scent, such as lavender. Visit my database for oils that soothe the mind.
3. Play with Your Food
Sometimes, it’s good to not take ourselves so seriously and become like kids again. Try some recipes with nurturing foods that are fun and can be a treat. Use aromatic upliftment by diffusing your favorite blend that can bring you into the holiday fun with your young ones with the additional benefits of essential oils.
You can celebrate that food can part of the festivities without fear and appreciate benefits of food. Sometimes this begins with curing your relationship to food first, then using gentle nutrition to guide what makes your body feel good.
Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)