Now, we understand that calling it a trend might be a stretch. Fasting has been used in religions for years, but its recently entered the health industry as a form of dieting known as “intermittent fasting”.
Intermittent fasting can be any period of voluntary restriction of food. Recently, it’s been getting a fair amount of research put into it, with the Annual Review of Nutrition ultimately concluding that intermittent fasting may benefit human health and decrease the chance of chronic disease. However, most of these studies have been done in small sample sizes, with no control groups, and no thorough follow up.
Although this clinical research is new, occasional fasting can improve insulin sensitivity, decrease high cholesterol levels and inflammation, as well as improving appetite control, all coming from giving the digestive system a reset break.
Some people swear by skipping breakfast, while others abide by the 8:16 method, where 8-hours of normal eating is followed by a 16-hour fasting period. Another is the 5:2 method, which requires dieters to fast for 24 hours either once or twice a week, and eat reasonably for the rest.
Dieters claim to feel more energized and “lighter”. But when we deprive ourselves of much-needed nutrients, aren’t we always going to feel “lighter”? It doesn’t necessarily equate to healthy. In a religious context and as an act of mindfulness, the benefits of fasting are clear. But when it comes to looking out for your body and giving it the best nutrition possible, we have doubts.
When done responsibly, it seems that this diet can be a detox of sorts which promotes a healthy lifestyle and weight loss, but going prolonged periods without food in an unmonitored and uneducated way is what we’re concerned about. It can even be life=threatening for some. There’s no universal rules for fasting, and some might take it too far, especially if paired with an intensive workout regimen.
Additionally, men and women react quite differently to fasting, with fasting in women sometimes leading to metabolic disruption, binge eating, and missed periods. Unfortunately, the relationship between fasting and human hormones hasn’t been delved into yet, and could take another decade at least.
Our conclusion is to abide by portion control and whole foods, and maybe skip a breakfast or lunch once in a while. Use it as a cautious tool instead of a full-on diet or lifestyle, and you may reap the benefits too.