Study: Reasonable intermittent fasting can be good for heart health

Celeste Allred from Orem finds that a schedule of regular, sensible fasting improves her overall health. (Heather Simonsen, KSL-TV)

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OREM – Have you ever wondered how effective intermittent fasting is? The hot dieting trend may have health benefits far beyond weight loss, according to researchers.

Until recent changes in her eating habits, including intermittent fasting, Celeste Allred said she felt a lack of energy and focus. “I had such a bad brain fog. I could not focus on anything. I could not think,” says Allred, mother of nine children who lives in Orem. “Even taking simple phone calls was too much.”

She said the adoption of a periodic fasting schedule improved her focus and cognition.

This is not surprising, said Dr. Benjamin Horne of the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute.

“It’s a kind of recovery and rejuvenation,” said Horne, the institute’s chief investigator and director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology.

In a study presented to the American Heart Association last November, Horne and his team found intermittent fasting, which went on once a week for 24 hours with only water, and reduced inflammation in the body.

They believe it controls galectin-3, a protein bound to inflammatory response, which reduces the risk of diabetes, coronary heart disease and heart failure.

“The lack of food signals to the cells throughout the body that there is a need to optimize their function,” Horne said. “They do their job better when you move on from Lent.”

Over time, regular fasting periods can reset baseline blood sugar to normal levels, according to Horne. However, it must be sustainable, a routine you can stick to.

Horne and a colleague tried it themselves. “We both lost about six pounds,” he said.

They found that after four months of fasting once a week, they were less tempted to snack between meals, an added benefit he hears about from patients. “They feel they are more able to control their eating habits instead of having the craving for food that controls them,” he said.

Intermittent fasting can have different schedules. Horne said that even fasting 12 hours from noon to morning can be beneficial. But in general, the longer you probably stretch these hours, the better.

Allred said by fasting that she is feeling better. “I like being able to think,” she said. “I like to have energy. I like to be able to move. I like to be able to take care of my family.”

She makes regular periods without food part of her healthy routine. As with any diet, consult your doctor first.

Experts warn that young children and adults with a range of health problems should not fast.

They are also always concerned that fasting can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food and eating disorders.

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