Intermittent fasting is a popular method of dieting that involves rotating periods of non-fasting and fasting in an attempt to lose weight. There are multiple variations of this diet, and there has also been extensive research conducted that suggests intermittent fasting can actually be a healthy option for most people. How Exactly Does Intermittent Fasting Work? Unlike most fad diets that give participants very specific guidelines regarding what to eat, the intermittent fasting method allows you to choose how you want to structure each day. In most cases, people decide to stick to one of the two main options:
- Alternating Days - With this method, dieters will fast for a full 24 hours and then allow themselves to eat normal meals for 24 hours. However, it is vital to note that this is typically done in a format that still provides people with the opportunity to eat both days. For example, if you stop eating at 1 p.m. after lunch today, you can start eating again after 1 p.m. tomorrow.
- Skipping a Meal - The idea of skipping one or even two meals each day is the preferred method for many people because it does not require as long of a fasting period. If you select this option, you will need to limit your timeframe for eating each day to a specifically determined window that will last between four and eight hours. In other words, if you select a six-hour window, you might choose to eat between the hours of noon and 6 p.m., and this would require you to eliminate breakfast and any after-dinner snacks.
Is Intermittent Fasting Safe?
Before anyone considers adopting the intermittent fasting diet, they need to carefully consider any specific health issues that could be negatively impacted by changing their eating habits. After all, diabetics, hypoglycemics, pregnant or lactating women, and people with severe gastrointestinal reflux disease need to eat more regularly in order to keep their bodies working properly. However, if you do not fall into one of these categories, the odds are high that intermittent fasting will work for you without putting you in any type of danger. In fact, extensive research has determined that there are actually several health benefits to choosing this particular diet. According to the University of California, Berkeley, selecting the alternating days approach can have five potential perks:
- Improve cognitive function
- Reduce the dieter's risk of developing cancer
- Offer some protection from the effects of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases
- Decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease
- Potentially reduce the dieter's risk of becoming diabetic (This health benefit has been observed in animals, but there has only been minimal research to date with humans.)
Additionally, a landmark study that was completed by researchers at the University of Chicago in 1946 determined that fasting every third day boosted the life expectancy of test rats from 15 to 20 percent. Interestingly, male rats received the optimum life increase, but the female subjects were only boosted by 15 percent. However, this is still significant enough to make intermittent fasting a viable option for either gender. Is Intermittent Fasting a Good Choice for Baby Boomers? This dieting technique has been studied with baby boomers, and the positive results for most participants included reduced blood pressure and increased metabolic rate. Therefore, as long as you do not have any specific health issues that would be negatively impacted by fasting, you could potentially lose weight and experience several other perks by utilizing this diet. Keep in mind that it is always best to discuss any major changes in your diet with your primary care physician before you move forward.