The People's Perspective on Medicine

Intermittent Fasting for Better Heart Health

People who practice intermittent fasting even once a month have better heart health. They are less likely to develop heart failure or die prematurely.
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Intermittent fasting is getting more attention. Going without food for at least 12 hours and up to a day or longer has been promoted for weight loss and blood sugar control (Nutrients, Oct. 14, 2019). Now there is evidence that this practice could promote better heart health.

An Observational Study on Fasting and Better Heart Health:

Years ago, a study in Utah found that fasting on a regular basis might contribute to better heart health. The researchers questioned 200 people undergoing angiography to detect heart disease. The patients, mostly members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), were asked about fasting. Those who reported fasting once a month were 58 percent less likely to have diseased coronary arteries than those who did not. The findings were reported at the meeting of the American College of Cardiology in April, 2011.

Following Up on Fasting and Better Heart Health:

A new study from Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute has found that people who practice intermittent fasting are less likely to develop heart failure. They also have better chances of survival after cardiac catheterization. Researchers tracked 2,000 patients undergoing this diagnostic procedure for four and a half years. When they had the test performed, the participants answered questions about lifestyle.

Because Intermountain Healthcare is located in Salt Lake City, many of the subjects were Mormons. The church encourages its members to fast for at least two consecutive meals a month, usually on the first Sunday. The money they would have spent on food is supposed to be donated to the church as a fast offering. As a result, many devout church members undergo routine fasting one day a month.

The investigators presented their results from the cardiac catheterization study at the American Heart Association annual meeting on Nov. 16, 2019, in Philadelphia, PA. They speculated that intermittent fasting activates biological processes such as ketosis (using fat rather than sugar for energy) that may contribute to better heart health. In addition, routine intermittent fasting over a long period of time may prime the body. Potentially, this could allow shorter fasting periods such as the time between dinner and breakfast to trigger a helpful metabolic response.

Learn More:

Other researchers have reported that intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating can slow the progression of atherosclerosis, lower blood pressure, improve the lipid profile, reduce inflammation and minimize the risk of type 2 diabetes (Nutrients, March 20, 2019). Presumably, all these actions should lead to better heart health. In particular, previous research suggests that eating the largest meal earlier in the day offers advantages. To learn more about the use of intermittent fasting in diabetes, you may wish to listen to our Show 1143: Can You Control Your Blood Sugar by Fasting?

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    About the Author
    Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
    Show 1143: Can You Control Your Blood Sugar by Fasting?
    Free - $9.99

    Intermittent fasting together with a diet low in refined carbohydrates can help many people with type 2 diabetes control their condition.

    Show 1143: Can You Control Your Blood Sugar by Fasting?
    Citations
    • Rynders C et al, "Effectiveness of intermittent fasting and time-restricted feeding compared to continuous energy restriction for weight loss." Nutrients, Oct. 14, 2019. DOI: 10.3390/nu11102442
    • Malinowski B et al, "Intermittent fasting in cardiovascular disorders-An overview." Nutrients, March 20, 2019. DOI: 10.3390/nu11030673
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    Just wondering what the health status was of the couple Karen refers to who only eat once a day in a one hour time span when they commenced this drastic fasting regime. Were they obese and in poor health when they started?
    There is loads of information out there on the benefits of intermittent fasting and there have been lots of studies. Check out Dr Valter Longo as well as Dr Mosley of 5:2 diet fame. I think intermittent fasting is great and it is not as hard to do as you might think.

    I know someone who lost over 100 pounds in a year by just – intuitively – deciding to eat one meal a day, a big one at lunchtime, anything she fancied. I can’t quite do that, but for the last two weeks I’ve eaten only within the hours of 12 noon and 8pm. I’m sticking to low-carb, no alcohol, as much fiber as I can rustle up. It’s helped my digestion, lost me five pounds, and is surprisingly easy to do. So far so good. I see no reason why this would give me kidney problems or any of the other dire things people warn about in fasting. Of course, you always need to drink a lot of water.

    After reading the books of Dr. Jason Fung, I began doing intermittent fasting 5 days a week. I skip breakfast, as I’m usually not hungry in the mornings, and have a late lunch (no earlier than 2pm) or sometimes skip lunch altogether. I have lost nearly 30 lbs. in about 9 months and, most importantly, have kept it off about ten months later. It’s been the easiest thing I’ve done for weight loss, as it’s entirely flexible: Holidays coming up? Plan to fast before or after and eat as you normally would on the holiday. Just feeling cranky and hungry? Go ahead and eat. I’ve learned that hunger comes in waves (not a constant), and that keeping busy helps to suppress appetite. I’ve run 10k races and even done a triathlon in the fasting state with no ill effects. Keep in mind that fasting is NOT recommended for people with GERD, and if you have diabetes, you should consult your doctor and proceed with caution. Fasting is much more sensible than making yourself eat when you’re not hungry just because the clock says it’s lunchtime.

    If you are really interested in learning the truth about the value of Intermittent fasting and how to do it correctly, you should google Gin Stephens and Dr. Jason Fung. They have both researched it for years. IF is a way of life and not a diet. There are many health benefits and it is very do-able and sustainable to live this way.

    I have been doing IF for a year now. I am 58 yrs old and feel like a much younger version of myself. This is an easy way of life, and it’s free! I wish more people would look at the science of this and give it a try. I do believe that many people can reverse and prevent disease with regular fasting. I fast every day, anywhere from 16-20 hours. Thank you for your article!

    I was practicing intermittent fasting for years, unknowingly. I worked in a factory, would not eat breakfast until 10am and nothing pretty much after dinner, and have never had a weight problem.

    My wife started I.F. 2 years ago, and that is how I discovered I was doing I.F. My wife has done really well on I.F. Her excess weight is coming off at a reasonable pace; she is not hungry; and her B.P. is normal, as is her other body functions.
    We have bought the Toronto Dr’s book on it and it seems a reasonable hypothesis.

    From all that I have read I do believe in intermittent fasting. The human body was not designed to eat all day long and more typically, there would be periods when no food was available, unlike how we live today. The studies support the logic of going without, which in turn helps one’s organs.

    Yes, I fast. At first I felt hungry but now my body is used to the routine. I have energy, and it does also help with weight issues along with helping the “discipline” muscle.

    Each body is different. In general though, this seems to be a healthy choice.

    Reading the other comments makes me wonder if they read, or more importantly, understood the article & it’s premise???

    I’ve been doing intermittent fasting for over six years. The way I do it is by limiting my calorie intake to only 600 calories two days a week. When I started this my weight was fluctuating between 195 and 200 lbs. In 12 weeks I lost 14 lbs and my blood pressure went from 150/85 to 115/65. Now my weight fluctuates between 170 and 175. My b/p, cholesterol, tri-glycerides, and blood sugar are now all within normal range. I’m 67 and haven’t taken any prescription meds for over six years. Intermittent fasting works for me.

    It was suggested by an oncologist that I look into intermittent fasting as a way to get my digestive system back on track after side effects from chemo. I saw a certified dietician who doesn’t recommend intermittent fasting for any reason. She said she has many patients who are trying to undo the damage to their system caused by this practice. She is seeing worse problems when patients try to stop this fasting practice.

    My doctor asked me last month how I’ve been able to lose almost 40 pounds in the past 3 years and get off the statin for high cholesterol. I told her, “Nothing drastic. I have restricted my eating time to 8 hours a day (9am-5pm), cut out added sugar, and eaten MORE vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. I also got a dog 18 months ago, who I walk 3 times a day.” I have eaten healthfully for many years — and gained weight every year. I can’t help but think the time-restricted eating has made a difference.

    I only see a couple of responses but one is limited and reflects the thinking that intermittent fasting cannot help weight control in its quick dismissive summary of it. Eating moderately is highly subjective but it is at least as important, with intermittent fasting, as regular eating in the sense of balanced intake. The main keys with intermittent fasting is timing to give the digestive process a break and to limit calories to some extent to what the body really needs rather than craves. In so doing the eating becomes less driven by addiction and more by necessity.

    It’s not a topic easily dismissed and deserves to be discussed in a pros and con evidence-linked way. The second comment I see picks someone who supposedly eats mostly at one time of the day and has chronic illness and presents that as a case, it seems, for not considering intermittent fasting, which is to say cherry-picking to deny it as something to consider. I say look at the evidence. Fasting has a very long history and goes back even to the bible and other holy books mentioning its benefits.

    I think people should not be so quickly dismissive of it. It has been making the news a lot lately and is worth some looking into for those interested in their health.

    I do not believe in fasting. Weight control is a long-term commitment. Eating moderately daily is the key.

    I know someone who doesn’t eat anything until late afternoon. She eats anthing she wants in a one hour span. She is diabetic and has problems with hives. Her husband who follows the same practice is now on kidney dialysis. They are losing weight but it seems like the stress on their bodies from daily fasting is not healthy. Is this a safe way to lose weight?

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