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To Fast or Not to Fast

Intermittent Fasting (or IF) has become quite the buzz in the dieting community, with all sorts of promises attached to it. Does it work? Is it necessary?

Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that includes either hours or days of no or minimal food consumption. It should also be done without deprivation of essential nutrients. Commonly studied regimens include alternate day fasting (not eating for a full day here and there), or daily time-restricted feeding (such as eating only during a eight-hour window). For some this might make sense, seeing as though our ancestors, who had limited access to food where often forced to fast. There is also some evidence that calorie restriction is a feature of people who live longer, so is there something in this?

Yes there are some benefits to controlled fasting, but nobody needs to intentionally starve themselves by skipping meals. Remember the human body does this naturally while we sleep anyway!

If someone is waking up and having processed breakfast cereal or a greasy fry-up breakfast then of course skipping breakfast will create a calorie deficit and help eliminate those refines or fatty foods. However, I do not see how skipping a delicious smoothie with fresh fruit, seeds, superfoods and oats is beneficial to health. So it really depends on what you are skipping on!

If followed correctly (as in not skipping not nutrients), IF might offer some benefits like digestive benefits, immune benefits and metabolic benefits although the research is still divided. According to a 2019 review in The New England Journal of Medicine, studies on time restricted eating showed some benefits, like increased stress resistance, increased longevity, and a decreased incidence of diseases, including cancer and obesity. It works by switching the body's energy source from glucose to ketones. The research however is not conclusive with many studies showing no benefit. It has also been established that IF will not help weight loss unless it's creating a calorie deficit. So skipping breakfast and packing in calories at your meals isn't quite going to work.

The bottom line is that whether you choose to fast, or prefer to fast for other reason (like not feeling hungry, not wanting to be prepping too much food etc), then go ahead! Like any diet regime the important thing is that your nutritional needs are being met within the framework of your chosen eating style. More research is needed before we can make firm recommendations on fasting.

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