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A PERSPECTIVE ON INTERMITTENT FASTING
People love dramatic happenings in life. Psychologically, the majority of us do so many things to satisfy our ego than to get the desired results. Managing body weight is one such area where people want to talk more about losing pounds than really losing them. For this, there are so many types of diets, exercises, supplements, tricks and whatnot. But the urban population has more obese people than the fit ones. Intermittent fasting is one such fad which is being talked about very frequently. Recently, a number of studies have been conducted to find its efficacy, health benefits and possible harmful effects. Weight loss experts have started recommending intermittent fasting to cut down body fat resulting in weight loss. They also claim that this lifestyle also reduces incidents of other chronic diseases. Intermittent fasting can be undertaken in many ways. One method is alternate day fasting and eating in which for 12 hours of each day nothing is consumed except water followed by normal meals. This has to continue for many weeks. Another method is two days of fasting on non-consequent days with a normal diet on the other 5 days.
One another variation is 4-12 hours eating window including fasting of 12 hours. The person can eat anything during that window. One more option is time-restricted eating. In this method, one shouldn’t eat anything for 16 hours continuously but can have normal meals during the residual 8 hours. There is a circadian rhythm of the body when things move in a circular system of activities like sleep and awakening, hormonal up and down swings etc. Some researchers claim that eating at odd times disrupts circadian rhythm and increases the chances of some chronic diseases. These diseases include type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even some cancers. The purpose of this diet regime is to increase nighttime fasting as is done by a traditional Jain family in India where no food is taken after sunset. This is called chrono-nutrition.
Now a question arises about the scientific analysis of intermittent fasting. Generally, after 12 to 36 hours of fasting, liver glycogen stores get depleted resulting in health beneficial alterations in overall metabolic processes. Intermittent fasting has the potential to reduce total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides and to increase blood levels of HDL cholesterol but no long-term controlled studies are available. Theoretically, it should improve blood sugar control (but not in type 1 diabetes) by increasing insulin sensitivity and decreasing insulin resistance. A weight loss of 3-7 per cent is possible after 8-10 weeks of intermittent fasting.
There is a 14 hours to 10 hours pattern of fasting in which one can have normal food for ten hours after 14 hours of total fasting. It has been seen that by this method one can reduce waist circumference, and body and visceral fat resulting in better blood glucose metabolism. As fat loss reduces chronic inflammation, the chances of breast cancer are possibly reduced in women. Incidents of cancer breast in low-body weight women are significantly lower than in obese or comparatively plump women. Studies are underway to examine the impact on longevity and occurrence of Parkinson’s disease where logically intermittent fasting should have beneficial effects. But is fasting the panacea for so many human health problems? Are there no negative effects of staying away from food under pressure? Can this be a universal phenomenon or there are individual preferences and adjustments? There is nothing which can be absolutely safe in existence. Intermittent fasting has its advocates and detractors. There are many benefits but so many side effects to having been recorded. The common side effects are sudden pangs of hunger, irritability, mood swings and thoughts only about food leading to a lack of concentration. Some people lose control over hunger and overeat during nonfasting periods. One more point to be noted is that the quality of research stating benefits has been of low value as no random controlled clinical trials have been undertaken. In many studies, the trials were of very short duration with a significant lack of transparency on part of participants. People tend to hide so many things they eat and their adherence to a strict regime of fasting too might be dubious.
The logical and most beneficial way to control weight is one which everyone knows but only a few follow - low carb, low fat and dominantly vegetarian diet with only lean meat and fish for non-vegetarians. Mediterranean diet, South Indian and similar diets along with an active lifestyle and control of calorie intake should be enough to lead a healthy life with a normal body weight.