Researchers have found surprising new health benefits to intermittent fasting.
In a paper published on Christmas Day in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers suggest that intermittent fasting can help people combat obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and neurologic disorders, according to Today. The diet typically requires a person to eat within a small time frame, usually about six to eight hours, before fasting the rest of the day.
By turning on the “metabolic switch,” the body turns fat into energy while preserving muscle mass and function.
“The evidence is accumulating that this metabolic switch triggers a lot of signaling pathways in cells and various organs that improve their stress resistance and resilience,” adjunct professor Mark Mattson of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, one of the study’s authors, told the outlet.
“If you eat three meals a day plus snacks spaced out… you may never have that metabolic switch occurring,” added Mattson, who has practiced intermittent fasting for nearly three decades.
According to the paper, Mattson and his co-authors believe intermittent fasting keeps the body from producing free radicals, which are unstable atoms that can damage cells and cause illness and aging. It can also regulate blood sugar.
“We’re adapted through millions of years of evolution to respond to reduced food availability in ways that one, enable us to get food, but two, increase our ability to resist various types of environmental stress,” Mattson said.
Many celebrities have participated in the regimen in recent years.
The Morning Show star Jennifer Aniston revealed in October that she doesn’t eat for 16 hours out of the day.
“I do intermittent fasting, so there’s no food in the morning,” she told U.K. outlet Radio Times. “I noticed a big difference in going without solid food for 16 hours.”
“Today, I woke up and had a celery juice,” she said. “Then I started to brew some coffee, but I don’t drink coffee that early.”
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Mattson said previous studies have found that intermittent fasting may trigger something in the body that was adapted from our ancestors, who had to survive without food for long periods of time. He hopes his research can help the diet be taken more seriously in the coming years.
“We are at a transition point,” Mattson wrote, according to Newsweek, “where we could soon consider adding information about intermittent fasting to medical school curricula alongside standard advice about healthy diets and exercise.”