Intermittent Fasting May Help Treat Metabolic Syndrome

Intermittent Fasting May Help Treat Metabolic Syndrome


Welcome to Impact Factor, your intermittent
dose of commentary on a new medical study, I’m Dr. F. Perry Wilson. I want you to think about the first calorie
you consumed yesterday. Mine was probably the sugar in my coffee around
6 am. Now think about the last calorie you consumed
yesterday. Mine would have been some sugar in my tea
around 930 pm. Most adults in the US are like me – consuming
calories over around a 15-hour period. But if you haven’t been living under a pizza
lately, you will have heard of intermittent fasting, a dietary plan that extols the virtue
of prolonged fasts to reset the metabolism. The details on any individual plan vary, but
the central idea revolves around time restricted eating (TRE) – limiting caloric consumption
to specific hours on the clock. And now, thanks to this paper appearing in
Cell Metabolism, we have some evidence that a relatively modest time-restricted eating
plan can significantly improve blood parameters among individuals with the metabolic syndrome. This is a small, but nicely done study. 19 individuals with metabolic syndrome who
had a daily eating interval of about 15 hours, were followed for 3 months during which they
were asked to restrict their eating to a 10-hr window. Think 8am-6pm. Other than that, there were no particular
requirements. Participants could eat whatever they wanted,
however much they wanted, provided it was in that timeframe. By and large, this was a compliant bunch,
reducing their eating window to just over 10 hours. Detailed dietary profiling found that they
weren’t skipping meals, but compressing them – eating breakfast a bit later and
dinner a bit earlier. And in that process, they ended up taking
in fewer calories – about 200 fewer calories a day less than during the baseline period. That reduction in caloric intake led to a
fair amount of weight loss, around 7 pounds over the 3 month study. Several metabolic parameters improved. Body fat and systolic blood pressure decreased. LDL cholesterol went down, and the average
participant lost about 4 cm of waist circumference. But not everything changed so dramatically. Fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c got
a bit lower, but not to the point of statistical significance for example. There were a lot of measurements done in this
study, 32 are reported in the outcome table, so we need to be a bit worried about false-positives. But that’s not really the main limitation
here. The main limitation is that these patients
were enrolled in a study. See, without a control group, we don’t know
if the beneficial changes seen were due to the effects of intermittent fasting, or just
because the patients knew they were being “watched”. They had to log into an app, go to study visits,
and so on. That alone may be enough to change behaviors
in a beneficial direction. In other words, we don’t have great support
here for particularly unique effects of intermittent fasting compared to other diets that lead
to calorie restriction. And this leads to one of my central theories
of diet studies. Any diet that makes it harder to eat – whether
you are limiting certain types of foods or certain times of day – is probably good
for you. One of the central drivers of the obesity
epidemic is our ad libitum access to food – we often see promising results like this
when you simply limit that free access. What I like about time-restricted eating is
it’s pretty easy to explain. Eat inside these hours, don’t eat outside
of these hours. That’s a bit easier than explaining how,
for example, ketosis works. But in the end, the key to any diet plan is
adherence. Researchers contacted these participants 3
months after the study ended. At that point, only 5 were still adherent
to the calorie window. Future studies examining novel dietary interventions
would do well to prove that participants not only understand the diet, but can stick with
it.

One thought on “Intermittent Fasting May Help Treat Metabolic Syndrome

  1. I’m 4 months in to an intermittent fasting diet but it’s become the norm for me now. Lost 18Kg so far – have plenty to go. I think the biggest thing that’s helped is that because I don’t eat after 6pm now, I have cut out a heap of evening calories that I would usually graze on. Still losing 1/2 kilo (about a pound) every week and I’m finding it easy to stick to now it’s formed a habit. It’s not a diet to me any more, but just my normal lifestyle. Not an easy first month, but if you can get through that, you should be able to stick to it. 👍

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