When most people take a crack at a diet, their main focus is on what exactly they put in their bodies. Previously, we have covered diets such as a “Blue Zones” diet, which is based on mainly consuming fresh fruits and vegetables. Additionally, trendy diets such as the ketogenic diet are focused on what you put in your body, with the keto diet requiring consuming little to no carbohydrates and loading up on fats and proteins. As a diet, intermittent fasting stands out as being unique from other prototypical diets. In fact, according to Healthline, it is considered more as an eating pattern than as a diet. In short, intermittent fasting involves consuming zero calories for long stretches of time and consuming all of your calories within a specified period. Among the different ways of doing intermittent fasting, the most popular seems to be to consume all of your daily calories within an 8-hour window and then fast for the 16 hours in between.
Why is intermittent fasting so popular as a health trend?
Similar to why the keto diet has become so popular recently, the main reason that people take up intermittent fasting is that it is an efficient way to lose large amounts of weight in a short period of time. Without going into too much detail about the science behind intermittent fasting, it essentially helps you lose weight by affecting both how many calories you consume and how many you burn. Calorie intake becomes limited through intermittent fasting by eliminating meals that people on a more regular diet would have. While most people consume 3–4 meals per day, the short time window for eating whilst intermittent fasting typically only allows for 2 meals per day on the standard intermittent fasting eating pattern. According to Healthline, people will generally opt to skip breakfast and consume all of their calories during an 8-hour period from early in the afternoon until mid-evening. On the other side of the calorie equation, intermittent fasting also helps to burn calories. This happens because it changes hormone levels, allowing you to burn calories more efficiently.
With this in mind, intermittent fasting has likely become a popular, mainstream method for losing weight because not only does it allow people to control their calorie intake, but it also allows people to burn calories efficiently without necessarily having to do any sort of strenuous workouts. As a result, its popularity comes down to offering the calorie consumption control of a more regular diet, mixed with offering an efficient method of burning calories without having to put in much effort in that regard. More than likely, the most effort that is mandatory in following an intermittent fasting eating pattern is controlling the urges to eat during the 16-hour fasting period. With this said, intermittent fasting is an intriguing option for people who are looking to lose weight but are not necessarily interested in following a training regimen.
Intermittent fasting, epigenetics, and longevity
One question that often arises regarding new health trends is whether or not there are negative long-term effects to following them. When looking into a keto diet, you can see short-term benefits such as weight loss, as well as potential benefits for fighting obesity and diseases such as diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and more. With this said, however, there has been little research on the long-term effects of following a keto diet. As a result, it can be concluded that if you are healthy and in good shape, it may be worth steering clear of a keto diet until it is proven whether or not there are negative long-term side effects of following the diet.
In the case of intermittent fasting, however, it appears as though there are very few long-term side effects of taking up the eating pattern. In fact, a Harvard study from 2017 argues that intermittent fasting may actually be beneficial to controlling aging and lengthening your lifespan. The study found that manipulating mitochondrial networks can increase lifespan and that one way this can be done is through dieting. The authors of the study mimicked the intermittent fasting diet on worms, finding that the diet allowed their mitochondrial networks to remain young as they age.
From an epigenetics perspective, this provides further evidence that biological aging can be controlled and reversed. As the worms aged chronologically (their age based on a calendar), their biological age was able to be manipulated to stay young based on a diet alone. Epigenetics is the idea that biological aging can be controlled through living aspects such as lifestyle and surrounding environments. This study shows that biological age can absolutely be manipulated through something as simple as following an eating pattern.
So, if you are interested in trying out intermittent fasting for any reason, I say to go for it! There seem to be very few (if any) negative long-term side effects of intermittent fasting, with it actually being argued that following this pattern can help to lengthen your lifespan and control aging. If you do decide to try out intermittent fasting, consider checking out AgeRate. At AgeRate, we offer an at-home DNA testing kit that reveals your biological age and offers personalized insights to help slow aging and optimize your health. If you decide to give intermittent fasting a go, AgeRate can help display how much it is helping you to slow your biological aging.