Research shows intermittent fasting provides health benefits
Julie Cooper | January 23, 2019
It is a sign of the times, lots of diets and lifestyle changes come at us at dizzying speed as the new year begins.
Join a gym? Check.
Sign up for a meal delivery service? You bet.
Start a popular diet, attend a weight loss meeting, hire a nutritionist? Yes sir.
Now, many people are talking about intermittent fasting. It’s also called time-restricted feeding (TRF) and has been shown to provide potential benefits to cardiometabolic health, including improvements in body composition and blood lipids, and reduction of inflammation.
Through his research of intermittent energy restriction, Dr. Matthew McAllister, assistant professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance, learned that a set amount of time fasting and eating improves heart health and reduces factors such as diabetes.
“What we are doing is time-restricted feeding. It is a way to use fasting each day to promote various aspects of cardiometabolic health,” McAllister says. Subjects are instructed to consume calories in one eight-hour period, for example, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. or between noon and 8 p.m. For 16 hours of the day there is no eating or drinking, aside from water, just activity or sleeping.
McAllister says that subjects are not reducing calories, just adjusting the times when they eat. “My initial thought was that if you are going to restrict the time, you would eat fewer calories. And the reduction of daily calories would cause weight loss and other health benefits. But these benefits are found with no change in caloric intake - things like loss in body fat, reduced blood pressure, reduced inflammation.”
Graduate student Lilliana Renteria explains that the research studied two groups, consisting of 22 healthy, active men. One group ate the same amount of calories that they normally eat, and the other group was allowed to eat as many calories as they liked. Both groups benefited equally from the diet.
“We do have evidence of reduced blood pressure, reduced body weight and improved blood cholesterol,” McAllister says. The evidence also indicates that subjects could benefit from alternating days of fasting during the week.
McAllister says they plan to bring the study to populations that have greater health risks.
McAllister's research publication can be found here.