Could periodic fasting improve your blood sugar and weight?5 years ago | Nutrition
By pH health care professionals
Fasting has been a part of many religions’ traditions for a long time, but some people are fasting for health reasons. Since at least the 1970s, researchers have studied the effects of occasional or "periodic" fasting, or reduction in daily caloric intake, on animals and humans. Now we know that fasting may increase antioxidant activity and help to lower blood sugar and insulin levels. The consensus on the topic is growing, and indicates that fasting can have many health benefits.
The journal Cell Metabolism now reports that it's true across species. University of Southern California researchers tested fasting yeast in mice and rats. Mice had better blood sugar and insulin levels. Significant outcomes, including fewer tumors, better bone density, and less "bad" belly fat, showed that periodic fasting agreed with the mice.
Then, the USC team tried a plant-based diet on people that reduced calorie intake by 50 percent or more. Subjects ate this diet for only five days a month. Even though it was only five days of being hungrier, subjects had better blood sugar and lost weight. However, there were side effects in some people, including fatigue, weakness and headache.
In population studies, restricting calories seems to be linked to a longer lifespan. Japanese elderly folk who eat until they are 80 percent full are quite long-lived. But, since most Americans don't want to eat less than they want every single day, periodic fasting makes a good compromise. However, it is wise to avoid a pattern of binging and restricting. A study published in Rejuvenation Research found that people who did just that, alternating days of reduced calories with days of 175 percent food intake, didn't really get the same kind of benefits that the five-day fasting group did.
Check in with your doctor before beginning any kind of new diet. In case of any problems or complications, your doctor will want to know the context beforehand. Diabetics should be especially careful when changing their diets.
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