Breaking down the pros and cons of intermittent fasting

Low-carb, low-fat, high-fat, vegan, paleo. There’s no shortage of diets out there.

Now, intermittent fasting is an approach that’s taking the medical world by storm.

In fact, it was one of the most Googled diets in the United States last year. But does it really work?

Intermittent fasting involves alternating periods of calorie restriction and normal eating. A study found mice who ate a high-fat diet around the clock developed fatty livers and diabetes. But those who ate the exact number of calories during an eight-hour span were slimmer and healthier!

“Intermittent fasting reduces the inflammatory profile in the blood," said Dr. Anne Haney Cross, professor of neurology at Washington University in St. Louis.

There are a few different ways you can try intermittent fasting.

  • With alternate day fasting, you fast every other day.
  • The 5:2 plan involves eating normally for five days a week and limiting calories to 500 or less two days a week.
  • And there’s the time-restricted approach where you go 12 to 16 hours restricting food.

Researchers believe fasting can help with weight loss and illnesses, such as arthritis, migraines, bowel diseases, and high blood pressure. It might also lower the risk of heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. But there are some downsides:

“It’s hard. I’ve tried it myself,” Cross said.

One year-long study found those who fasted had higher cholesterol levels than those who didn’t.

The bottom line? While the jury might still be out, intermittent fasting is a diet that just might stick around.