In recent years intermittent fasting has emerged as an interesting dietary method, with several scientific studies proving it to be effective for weight loss. It is also safe and very useful for controlling blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol. However, is intermittent fasting better than traditional calorie-restriction diets, or is a combination of both methods the best strategy?

An Australian study published in December/2018 in Obesity magazine showed that the latter is true. That study showed that a diet of intermittent fasting on alternate days coupled with a calorie-reduction diet worked better than intermittent fasting alone or the well-known daily calorie reduction.

The patients in this study who had the most benefits were those who followed a diet with a 30% reduction in daily calories followed by a 24-hour fast. In this group, there was an average weight loss of 5 kg in 7 weeks compared to the group that underwent only daily caloric restriction (loss of about 4 kg) and the group that underwent only intermittent fasting (loss of about 2.5 kg). In addition, patients who followed intermittent fasting interspersed with a reduced-calorie diet had the best insulin resistance, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.

In addition, a recent review article published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine confirmed a long-held suspicion that intermittent fasting not only helps you lose unwanted pounds – it is also beneficial for healthier and longer living.

When we spend several hours without eating, our body stops using glucose as its main source of energy and starts using fatty acids, which come from fat stores. Our liver, in turn, turns these fatty acids into ketone bodies, a type of fuel that some organs like the brain use during longer fasts. This is the famous ketosis process.

The increase in these ketone bodies, in addition to providing energy, appears to improve a number of body functions, such as immunity, cardiac pumping, and neuron health.

The prolonged fasting state is necessary for the body to perform DNA repairs, remove free radicals and other toxic substances, which reduces the appearance and evolution of diseases such as cancer. Eating all the time leads to an accumulation of inflammatory and harmful substances, so it’s important to take food breaks.

Studies with rats showed that those who ate every other day could not live up to 80% longer than those who ate at will. There aren’t enough longevity studies done with humans, but it is clear that people like those in Okinawa, Japan, who are thinner and eat fewer meals a day, have a longer-than-average life expectancy.

It is important to highlight that despite the benefits, intermittent fasting is only indicated with medical and nutritional monitoring. Not everyone will tolerate going for several hours without eating.

by Paulo Gustavo Ribeiro