Study: Reasonable intermittent fasting can be good for heart health

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

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Orm – Have you ever wondered how effective intermittent fasting is? The hot diet trend may have health benefits that go 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 bad brain fog. I couldn’t focus on anything. I couldn’t think,” said Allred, a mother of nine who lives in Orem. “Even receiving simple phone calls was too much.”

She said that adopting an intermittent fasting schedule improved her focus and cognition.

That’s not surprising, said Dr. Benjamin Horne, of Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute.

“It’s a kind of recovery and regeneration,” said Horn, the institute’s principal investigator and director of cardiovascular disease and genetic epidemiology.

In a study presented to the American Heart Association last November, Horne and his team found that intermittent fasting, once a week for 24 hours with just water, reduces inflammation in the body.

They believe it controls galectin-3, a protein linked to the inflammatory response, reducing the risks of diabetes, coronary artery disease and heart failure.

“Lack of food signals to cells throughout the body that there is a need to improve their function,” Horn said. “They do their job better when you go from fasting.”

Over time, regular fasting periods can reset basic blood sugar levels to normal levels, according to Horn. It should be sustainable, although it’s a routine that you can stick to.

Horn and his colleague tried it out themselves. “We both lost about six pounds,” he said.

They found that after four months of fasting once a week, they were less inclined to snack between meals, an added benefit heard from patients. “They feel more able to control their eating habits rather than wanting to control them,” he said.

Intermittent fasting can take on different schedules. Horn said that even a 12-hour fast from dinner until morning can be beneficial. But in general, the longer those hours safely go, the better.

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

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

Experts warn that children and young adults with any number of health issues should not fast.

They also always worry that fasting may lead to an unhealthy relationship with food and eating disorders.

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Heather Simonsen

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