Intermittent fasting

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Fasting is usually referred to as the complete absence of calorie intake over a certain span of time. Fasting is assumed to occur after 8-12 hours since the last meal. It is associated to a number of health benefits including improved cholesterol blood pressure, insulin sensitivity or blood glucose levels.

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a type of regular fasting that can be incorporated into a person's dietary schedule. It has attained popular interest in recent years for its various potential health benefits, including for treating disease and extending lifespan.[1][2]

Some preclinical evidence shows that certain IF regimens can prevent the onset of many age-related diseases. However, IF is not always associated with benefits in healthspan and may increase or decrease lifespan.[2] It has been proposed that at least part of the lifespan extending effect of calorie restriction is related to fasting.[2][3]

In rodent models, the evidence for IF preventing cancer development or growth is ambiguous, with studies showing no effect or potential harm with IF. More studies are required to better understand IF, both for preclinical and clinical research.[4]

A recent study in China randomized 139 obese adults to either calorie restriction alone or to calorie restriction with time-restricted eating (a 16-hour intermittent fast and a 8-hour period for eating).[5] After one year, both groups had lost 7-10% of body weight and showed healthier markers for blood sugar, blood fat levels and insulin sensitivity. Importantly, there was no statistically significant difference between both groups, suggesting calorie restriction is responsible for the health-associated benefits and that intermittent fasting has no added benefits to CR diets.

  1. Lee, M. B., Hill, C. M., Bitto, A., & Kaeberlein, M. (2021). Antiaging diets: Separating fact from fiction. Science, 374(6570), eabe7365. Chicago
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Longo, V. D., Di Tano, M., Mattson, M. P., & Guidi, N. (2021). Intermittent and periodic fasting, longevity and disease. Nature aging, 1(1), 47-59.
  3. Pak, H. H., Haws, S. A., Green, C. L., Koller, M., Lavarias, M. T., Richardson, N. E., ... & Lamming, D. W. (2021). Fasting drives the metabolic, molecular and geroprotective effects of a calorie-restricted diet in mice. Nature metabolism, 3(10), 1327-1341.
  4. Clifton, K. K., Ma, C. X., Fontana, L., & Peterson, L. L. (2021). Intermittent fasting in the prevention and treatment of cancer. CA: a cancer journal for clinicians, 71(6), 527-546.
  5. Liu, D., Huang, Y., Huang, C., Yang, S., Wei, X., & Zhang, P. et al. (2022). Calorie Restriction with or without Time-Restricted Eating in Weight Loss. New England Journal Of Medicine, 386(16), 1495-1504. doi: 10.1056/nejmoa2114833