Lots of folks are intermittent fasting these days, and fans of the practice say it provides lots of health benefits aside from weight loss, like reducing inflammation, improving blood sugar levels, and improving memory. So should we be trying it too? Here’s what the experts say.
Intermittent fasting isn’t a one-size-fits-all eating plan. You can tweak it depending on your lifestyle goals, body type, how often you work out, and so on. But basically it means you only eat for a certain number of hours a day and then you don’t eat for a longer amount of time. There’s also a 5:2 version of intermittent fasting that has you eat 500 calories or less for two days of the week and you slightly increase your calories the other five days.
As far as the benefits, Dr. Rusha Modi explains that some research suggests intermittent fasting can help “reset the body’s immune system and help maintain cellular health.” Other research shows that it might help protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease. But the basic idea is that it helps the body rejuvenate and repair and boosts overall health.
But is it safe? Dr. Barry Sears says it is as long as you’re no overconsuming when you do eat. And Dr. James Fung explains that a 24-hour fast won’t hurt you because patients have to endure that for medical testing sometimes, but he warns that “the longer a fast, the more risks a patient undertakes.” And it’s only for healthy adults, not kids, or pregnant or breastfeeding women, or people with diabetes or other medical conditions.