A guide to the benefits of intermittent fasting, courtesy of your Brooklyn NY specialty practice
Numerous studies through the decades have associated gastrointestinal changes with cardiovascular conditions, including chronic heart failure. As the office of Board-certified Gastroenterologist Dr. Alexander Shapsis, Atlantic Gastroenterology also appreciates the impact diet naturally has on gastrointestinal health and the rest of the body and its interconnected systems. While much has been made of the benefits of intermittent fasting for Brooklyn NY patients and others in terms of weight loss, research is further showing that long-term fasting of even just one day per month supports heart health.
Researchers at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, Utah followed more than 2,000 heart patients for five years to see if they developed additional cardiovascular problems or died during that time. What they found was that 40 percent of people who were “routine fasters” had a “substantially lower” risk of death and of heart failure when compared to the other groups who didn’t fast routinely over the long term (and even when adjusted for factors like tobacco and alcohol use). On average, these individuals fasted for 24 hours once a month for around 40 years, eating nothing and drinking no more than water for a day.
Utah has the country’s largest percentage of followers of the Mormon faith. So, many of those patients fasted as part of their faith on the first Sunday of each month. It’s believed that intermittent fasting for at least 12 to 14 consecutive hours activates various beneficial processes, including:
- Lowering blood pressure
- Reducing anemia
- Triggering autophagy or cell regeneration
Fasting can be a vehicle for positive change or a negative influence – depending upon how one goes about it. It’s important to talk to your physician before starting any fasting programs or major dietary or exercise changes, especially if you suffer from chronic disease. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should abstain from fasting, as should older patients and younger children. Fasting can stress the body, especially when you’re abstaining for 16 hours a day or doing so for several days a week.
Popular and safe versions, even fasting once a month as the study subjects did, can have a profound positive effect on diseases that arise gradually, and are much less rigorous (easier to adhere to) than fasting that occurs more frequently. Some methods include:
- 16:8 – fast for 16 hours, eat for eight hours
- Alternate day – eat nothing or up to 500 calories a day, then eat “normally” the following day, repeating the process
- 5:2 – incorporate two non-consecutive fast days into the week, with regular eating the other five days
Diets that support gastrointestinal, heart, and overall health are sustainable over the long term, and their benefits accumulate over the decades. Fast (smart) for your life!
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