Intermittent fasting is one of the most popular weight loss methods practiced today. Unlike many diet fads, however, this unique way of eating has serious science to back it up. According to new research on intermittent fasting and metabolic syndrome, intermittent fasting may have particular benefits for people who have diabetes and other diseases involving the metabolism.
What Is Metabolic Syndrome?
The past few decades have brought an increase in several chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Doctors and scientists believe that these are all part of a disease affecting the entire metabolism, which they call metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is an umbrella term that includes:
- type 2 diabetes and other forms of high blood sugar
- low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and high levels of “bad” blood lipids such as triglycerides
- an “apple-shaped” body with a comparatively large waist
- elevated blood pressure
Metabolic syndrome is a serious and even life-threatening condition. People who have this disease are at higher risk of a variety of devastating events such as heart attack and stroke.
There is no cure for metabolic syndrome. However, the cluster of symptoms that comprise this condition can often be successfully treated to reduce overall risks. While there are medications that can help, lifestyle changes that lower blood glucose, lower blood pressure and reduce weight appear to be the best approach.
Intermittent Fasting and Metabolic Syndrome
Changing your diet and losing weight are important factors in overcoming metabolic syndrome. However, accomplishing these goals can be very difficult. New research suggests that intermittent fasting may help people with metabolic syndrome to lose weight and begin to successfully treat their disease.
Researchers looked at a group of people with metabolic syndrome, including people who had serious conditions that required medication. They put these people on a diet that included intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is a meal timing method in which people take in calories only for a short period of the day, in this case, ten hours. The participants in this study were allowed to choose which ten hours they preferred and also to eat as much as they wanted during their ten-hour window.
Soon after starting this new eating regimen, participants reported having more energy and getting better sleep. After three months, the participants in the study had lost about 3 percent of their body weight and an average of 3 percent of their waist size despite not restricting their calories or the types of food that they ate. While this is not a dramatic weight loss, there were other surprising physical changes. The people in this study had lower blood sugar, lower blood pressure and healthier cholesterol levels.
Intermittent fasting also appears to be more sustainable in terms of long-term change. Although it can be difficult to stick to a diet, two-thirds of study participants elected to continue eating in a time-restricted manner after the study ended.
Is Intermittent Fasting Right For You?
There have been several studies that found health benefits in intermittent fasting. People who implement this style of diet lose weight more rapidly and tend to keep it off as long as they stick with the diet. They have improved insulin sensitivity, which leads to lower blood glucose levels and a lower risk of developing diabetes. They have lower cholesterol and lower risk of heart disease. Perhaps most surprisingly, they also experience better cognitive function and attention levels.
Although these are all dramatic effects, the prior studies have all examined health and weight loss benefits only in healthy people and lab animals. This new study is the first one to look closely at how intermittent fasting can affect people with metabolic syndrome and other common health issues. Although there will likely be much more study in the coming months and years, intermittent fasting appears to be a good choice for people looking to overcome metabolic syndrome.
Chronodiet: A Diet in Tune With Your Circadian Rhythm
Intermittent fasting is likely so effective due to its natural alignment with our natural circadian rhythms: Our ancestors did not eat through all of their waking hours. One particular type of intermittent fasting called the Chronodiet is meant to maximize this interaction with internal clocks.
In the Chronodiet, people eat three healthy, varied meals per day. The morning meal is heavily composed of carbohydrates to give you healthy energy as you begin your day. Lunch is a mix of protein, carbs and fats, while dinner is mainly proteins. This ensures a good balance of foods. In addition, people eating this kind of diet will leave at least twelve hours between dinner and breakfast, so they go into a fasting state overnight.
This is just one of many kinds of intermittent fasting. Although the Chronodiet has special features, any type of intermittent fasting may have serious health benefits. If you want to achieve a healthier lifestyle, fasting and other restricted-time diets may be a positive change.