Dietary Concepts: Is Intermittent Fasting Safe?
In a country where the obesity rates among adults is more than 20 percent in all states, more and more people are turning to intermittent fasting (IF) as a way to lose or maintain their weight. Claims link intermittent fasting with reduced inflammation, a lowered risk of type II diabetes, improved concentration and memory, and a host of other benefits. But is intermittent fasting safe?
Can skipping breakfast or even dinner be healthy for you when we’ve been told for years that three square meals a day is what you need to be healthy? In this article, we will explore what IF is, the different types of IF and what the risks are.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
The intermittent fasting definition is, in very basic terms, when eating occurs at fragmented times or irregular times. It often refers to a pattern of eating whereby a person cycles between eating and fasting (not eating).
Research into IF suggest that it causes the immune system to ‘reset’ resulting in apoptosis, which is a process whereby old cells that have a set life-span expire and are then replaced with the new generation of cells.
Is Intermittent Fasting Safe?
So, is intermittent fasting safe? Generally speaking, yes.
The risks of IF only come in when a person over-consumes during the times allotted for eating, or fast for too long. Medical procedures often require that people fast for 24-hours, which is seen as relatively safe to do. However, the longer the fast continues for, the more risks the patient is exposed to.
Is Intermittent Fasting Safe for Diabetics?
While IF may be safe for most people, is intermittent fasting safe for diabetics too? Dieticians warn against the use of IF for people with diagnosed diabetes or any endocrinological problems. For people with diabetes, the fasting period can put unwanted strain on a person’s blood pressure, which can be dangerous at times. Diabetics should consult with their doctor before attempting a dietary system such as IF.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
There are several types of intermittent fasting because the type that a person uses should reflect the type of lifestyle they have, their body type and exercise routine. Each type requires that a person only eat during certain hours of the day, or only on certain days, and then not eat for the rest of the time.
One approach to intermittent fasting is to not eat for 16 hours a day for men, and 14 hours a day for women, leaving 8 to 10 hours allotted for eating. Such a diet may require that the person avoid all calories during the fasting period with only sugar-free drinks or chewing gum allowed. Generally, people fast through the night and continue fasting for six hours into their morning. Maintaining a regular eating-window is important here.
Other types of IF are more dramatic and require that a person fast for 24 hours at a time for one or two days in a week. During the fasting time, you are allowed to drink calorie-free drinks such as black coffee. On days where eating is allowed, the person may eat what they normally would. This approach can be more difficult for a person to start on when compared to fasting for 14-16 hours a day.
The last IF method we will discuss is one that requires a person to fast for 20 hours at a time every day. In this method, only one large meal is allowed at night. With this diet, what you eat becomes more important.