Should you skip a meal or do intermittent fasting?

  1. Home
  2. Should you skip a meal or do intermittent fasting?
Should you skip a meal or do intermittent fasting?

Should you skip a meal or do intermittent fasting?

There are so many fads regarding diets and wellness that it becomes almost impossible to know what to follow. People have lost their wealth and life following some of these dangerous diet plans.

The new thing on the block is intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting is not new to our Indian culture and with so many religious opportunities and traditions to fast, people have been following intermittent fasting for ages.

Research has proven that the brain is a hybrid vehicle and is in optimal function when it switches between sugar and fat as its fuel,” says Jandial, MD, an associate professor in the Division of Neurosurgery at Los Angeles-based City of Hope National Medical Center. “The easiest way to achieve this is with intermittent fasting.”

In addition to promoting weight loss, so-called intermittent fasting may deliver a host of other surprising health benefits, from improved heart and brain health to a lower risk of diabetes, and even a longer life, recent research shows.

The evidence that intermittent fasting benefits the health of overweight people is already very strong, and its potential to slow or reverse certain diseases looks very good,” says Mark Mattson, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and author of a new article on intermittent fasting in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Within as little as 12 hours of going without food, the body begins to make changes to conserve energy and operate more efficiently, explains Benjamin Horne, Ph.D., a clinical associate professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at Stanford University.

With its tank of glucose, or sugar, empty, it starts burning fat and producing chemical byproducts called ketones, which circulate throughout the body, improving insulin sensitivity, dampening inflammation, and feeding the brain. Blood levels of sodium and a compound called TMAO (implicated in heart disease) plummet, while red blood cell counts rise, providing a boost for heart health. And levels of a compound called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein essential for maintaining healthy neurons, spike.

Meanwhile, the cells move from building mode to rest and repair mode, cleaning up and fixing faulty mitochondria (the energy-producing furnaces of the cell), and reducing oxidative stress (the cell damage that makes tissue age).

That eating pattern comes in several varieties.

Some plans call for restricting eating to a 6- to 12-hour window per day. Others call for eating normally a few days a week, then radically restricting calories for 2 or 3 days.

Both approaches have been shown to help, with studies in the realms of weight loss and metabolic health showing particular promise.

What’s a Fast?

Simply put, it means you stop eating completely, or almost completely, for a certain stretch of time. A fast usually lasts from 12 to 24 hours, but some types continue for days at a time. In some cases, you may be allowed water, tea, and coffee or even a small amount of food during the “fasting period.” month. This has provided scientists with quite a bit of information about what happens to your body when you fast, and the news is mostly good.

Certain types of fasting may help improve your cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose levels, insulin sensitivity, and other health issues.

This is an off-and-on type of fasting. There are three main types that doctors have studied and people have used for weight loss and improved health:

  • Time-restricted feeding
  • Alternate-day fasting
  • Modified fasting

Scientists have known for decades that ketones, which are produced when the body is starved of carbohydrates and are able to penetrate the brain can be a potent energy source for brain cells and calm “electrical storms” or seizures in those who have a type of epilepsy. Fasting can also stimulate the production of the anxiety-quelling neurotransmitter GABA. (During extreme fasting for the movie The Machinist, in which he lost 62 pounds, actor Christian Bale described it as “the most Zen-like state I’ve ever been in in my life.”) And animal studies have shown that intermittent fasting can prevent brain cell death, fend off Alzheimer’s-like symptoms, and boost the ability to learn and remember.

On the flip side, anyone who has ever felt like taking a nap after a big meal knows how too much food can sap mental energy.

The most looming question is if this pattern of eating might have long-term detrimental health effects. And for those who are already thin or elderly, fasting can potentially lead to bone loss and muscle wasting.

For people who are fortunate enough to be in good health and able to choose when and what to eat, a few skipped meals as a small sacrifice for big gains.

Dr.Rakesh Rai. MS, FRCS, MD, CCT, ASTS Fellow