Story at a glance

  • A study proposes that abstaining from food for 16 to 18 hours a day can improve health and longevity.
  • The study suggests that intermittent fasting can help with weight loss and prevent diseases.
  • There is no medical consensus on the topic, so experts recommend consulting with a doctor before trying intermittent fasting.

A new study poses that eating during a six- to eight-hour window and fasting for the remaining 16 to 18 hours can increase longevity and help support weight loss. 

Titled “Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease,” the study was authored by Mark Mattson and Rafael de Cabo. It states that eating in a six-hour period and then abstaining from food for the remainder of the day can catalyze a metabolic switch in the body that makes cells switch from glucose-based energy to ketone-based energy. In this process, the cells convert fat to energy. 

Some benefits of the diet are supposedly increasing stress resistance, longevity, decreasing the risk for diseases like cancer and obesity, aiding weight loss efforts and having more energy overall. 

There are some pitfalls to intermittent fasting, however; aside from it being a very difficult diet to maintain (approximately 38 percent give it up), some individuals with particularly low blood sugar, such as people with diabetes, may not be suited to restricting their calories and limiting their daily meals. 

Additionally, people with cardiovascular conditions may suffer from the disturbance in the body’s electrolytes. 

Aside from preexisting conditions, intermittent fasting can be helpful. Matteson is quoted saying,Patients should be advised that feeling hungry and irritable is common initially and usually passes after two weeks to a month as the body and brain become accustomed to the new habit."

While studies have been relatively small, they showcase a success rate; another report authored in 2018 found that people with type 2 diabetes were able to reduce their insulin intake after practicing intermittent fasting. The report did note, however, that the trial was medically supervised.

Speaking to CNN, Dr. Abhinav Diwan, an associate professor at Washington University in St. Louis, cautioned individuals who are ready to try intermittent fasting. 

“People do not want to put themselves at risk by fasting without consulting a doctor." 

Published on Dec 26, 2019