New research in US points to health benefits of fasting
Intermittent fasting, also called time-restricted eating, could improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels, according to a US study published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
The new study involved 137 firefighters in San Diego, California, who worked 24-hour shifts -- meaning they were on duty for 24 hours straight, a couple of times per week.
Researchers randomly assigned the firefighters to two groups: One stayed with their normal eating schedule, and the other committed to 12 weeks of time restriction -- narrowing their daily eating window from an average of 14 hours to 10 hours.
Among healthy firefighters, time-restricted eating showed positive effects, including less built-up of plaque in the arteries and less cardiovascular disease. The firefighters in that group also reported an improved quality of life.
Among firefighters with pre-existing risk factors for heart disease, time-restricted eating decreased blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
"There have been lots of hints that time-restricted eating improves blood sugar control and blood pressure, but this is the first study to really test this in a large scale in people who do shift work," said Courtney Peterson, an associate professor of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who wasn’t involved in either study.
And small studies have shown that narrow eating windows -- six hours being a popular one -- can help people shed some pounds.
Past research in animals has shown that during periods of fasting, organs get some rest from digesting food so they can divert their energy towards repairing cells.
A fasting period also allows for the break down of built-up toxins and the body can get rid of sodium, which in turn lowers blood pressure.