Study: Wise Intermittent Fasting May Be Good for Heart Health

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

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OREM — Ever wondered how effective intermittent fasting is? The hot dieting trend may have health benefits 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 such bad brain fog. I couldn’t focus on anything. I couldn’t think,” said Allred, a mother of nine who lives in Orem. “Even taking simple phone calls was too much.”

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

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

“It’s kind of restorative and rejuvenating,” said Horne, the institute’s principal investigator and director of cardiovascular 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 only water reduced inflammation in the body.

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

“The lack of food signals the cells throughout the body that it is needed to optimize their function,” Horne said. “They do their job better if you continue fasting.”

Over time, regular periods of fasting can reset baseline blood sugars to normal levels, according to Horne. It has to be sustainable, a routine that you can stick to.

Horne and a colleague tried it themselves. “We’ve both lost about six pounds,” he said.

They found that after four months of fasting once a week, they were less likely to snack between meals, an added benefit he hears from patients. “They feel like they can control their eating habits better than they have food cravings that control them,” he said.

Intermittent fasting can take on different schedules. Horne said even fasting for 12 hours from dinner to morning can be helpful. But in general, the longer you safely stretch those hours, the better.

Allred said fasting makes her feel better. “I like being able to think,” she said. “I like to have energy. I like to be able to move. I like to be able to take care of my family.”

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

Experts warn that young children and adults with all kinds of health problems should not fast.

They are also always concerned that fasting can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food and eating disorders.

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