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Intermittent fasting is one of the many diets that are gaining in importance as athletes everywhere are working towards their fitness goals for the new year. And whether weight loss or better overall health is the goal, a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that, unlike many other diets, intermittent fasting has significant scientific evidence to support this.
It can be done in several ways, but the two most common types of intermittent fasting are daily time-limited feeding and 5: 2 intermittent fasting, according to study author Mark Mattson, Ph.D., neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Time-limited feeding is when you only eat in a certain window per day (usually 6-8 hours). The 5: 2 strategy is when you're limited to a medium-sized meal two days a week.
Mattson has been studying intermittent fasting for 25 years and has been practicing it for 20 years, according to a press release. He says the new article is meant to clarify science and uses for nutrition.
Cell health is a remarkable benefit that is observed in animal and some human studies. That's because, according to Mattson, the body alternates between fasting and eating between using easily accessible sugar-based fuel and burning fat as an energy source.
Studies have shown that the switch above can help regulate blood sugar and reduce inflammation. In two studies of 100 overweight women, those who followed the 5: 2 iteration of intermittent fasting lost more belly fat and had better insulin sensitivity than those who simply reduced their calories.
Studies in humans and animals have also shown that IF lowers blood pressure, blood lipid levels and resting heart rate – all good things for long-term health.
"We are at a transition point where we may shortly consider adding fasting information to the medical school curriculum along with the usual advice on healthy eating and exercise," Mattson says.
Despite the advantages that Mattson points out in the article, he acknowledges that more research is needed and that intermittent fasting is not a viable option for some people. But in a sea of nutritional trends, it seems that intermittent fasting could have at least some scientific reasons to support it.