Most people are accustomed to eating three meals a day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as part of a healthy diet. However, recent studies have shown that diets that include intermittent fasting may help you live a longer life and lower your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
While it may seem unhealthy to intermittently restrict your caloric intake by 500 to 600 calories per day, a study from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has shown otherwise. Their study found that this type of diet had no adverse effects to one’s quality of life, but rather showed significant improvements to their blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.
Furthermore, according to Mayo Clinic, intermittent fasting can lead to improvements in your heart health. Not only does fasting decrease the amount of “bad” cholesterol in your body, it also reduces your risk of gaining weight or developing diabetes, both of which are risk factors in developing heart disease.
Dr. Valter Longo, PhD, Director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California, has conducted extensive research on how fasting can affect aging and disease. According to Dr. Longo, fasting lowers insulin levels along with other hormones, which are both associated with the development of cancer and diabetes. In addition, Dr. Longo argues that intermittent fasting slows the aging process by acting stem cells, which initiates the regeneration of new, younger cells.
If you do choose to fast it’s important to do so in moderation instead of continuously. Lauren Dimitrov, Registered Dietitian, says, “Fasting for long periods of time is not the healthiest choice. Your body requires nutrients to stay healthy, and not having enough may cause fatigue, dehydration, and dizziness.”
There are other factors to consider before you fast such as your current lifestyle and overall health. “If you have diabetes it’s important to avoid fasting because it can lead to dips and spikes in your blood sugar,” says Lauren. Furthermore, she suggests avoiding fasting for weight loss as this can cause your body to go into starvation mode, and slow down your metabolism.
Making lifelong, well-balanced dietary choices will help you get all the nutrients you need to maintain a healthy weight. If you have additional questions about fasting, make sure to consult with a Registered Dietitian for assistance in designing a healthy eating plan that’s right for you.