Written by UConn Dietetics student Caitlin Smith
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting has been highly popularized for the last decade and continues to gain buzz as new research emerges. So, what is intermittent fasting? Intermittent fasting involves alternating between periods of eating and fasting (fasting is abstaining from all or some kinds of food or drink). Studies show that intermittent fasting may help manage weight and reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.¹ When humans were hunters and gatherers many years ago, they survived for long periods without eating. That has changed over the last fifty years due to fast food and convenience foods, larger portion sizes, and limited physical activity, all of which can contribute to the development of overweight, obesity and chronic diseases. Scientific research shows that intermittent fasting may play a role in managing these issues .1, 2, 4
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
After a meal, the body breaks down carbohydrates (particularly sugar and refined grains) very quickly and uses them as energy. If our bodies do not use all of the energy calories, we store them as fat. When fasting, the body uses up sugar stores, and then we start burning fat instead of storing it. Fasting may help to improve metabolism, lower blood sugar levels, lessen inflammation, and clear out toxins and damaged cells in the body. 1,2,3
Types of intermittent fasting
There are many different types of intermittent fasting, and each type involves picking time periods that work best for you and your lifestyle. Two of the most common methods are the 16/8 and 14/10 method:
- The 16/8 method means fasting for 16 hours of the day and eating during an 8-hour window.
- The 14/10 method means fasting for 14 hours of the day and eating during a 10-hour window.
Some of the most common windows of time to eat are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Is intermittent fasting safe?
While intermittent fasting can offer health benefits, it may not be for everyone. Before trying intermittent fasting, it’s always important to check with your primary care practitioner. 1,2,3,4
- Intermittent fasting: What is it, and how does it work? Johns Hopkins Medicine.https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/intermittent-fasting-what-is-it-and-how-does-it-work. Accessed March 16, 2022.
- Staff HHP. Intermittent fasting: The positive news continues. Harvard Health . https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/intermittent-fasting-surprising-update-2018062914156. Published February 28, 2021. Accessed March 16, 2022.
- Intermittent fasting: What it is, types and how it works. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/intermittent-fasting-4-different-types-explained/.Published March 3, Accessed March 16, 2022.
- Research on intermittent fasting shows health benefits. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/research-intermittent-fasting-shows-health-benefits. Published February 27, 2020. Accessed March 16, 2022.
This material is funded by the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
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