• Sunday, April 14, 2024

HEALTH

Intermittent fasting can lead to cardiovascular diseases, says study

Study limitations included reliance on self-reported diets and neglecting other health-influencing factors among participants. (Representative image: iStock)

By: Vibhuti Pathak

Fatty foods, sugars, and junk food, seem very unhealthy, but did you know, what is more, unhealthy than this? Intermittent fasting. Yes, you read that right!

A recent study, presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention conference, has cast doubt on the purported health benefits of intermittent fasting, particularly the 16:8 plan, which involves consuming all daily meals within an 8-hour window and fasting for the remaining 16 hours.

What exactly is intermittent fasting which has been so popular amongst the health freaks?

Intermittent fasting focuses on when you eat rather than what you eat. You only eat during certain hours each day or limit meals to a few days a week. Our bodies are built to handle periods without food, as seen in our hunter-gatherer ancestors. In the past, people naturally ate less due to limited entertainment and more physical activity.

Nowadays, constant access to technology leads to prolonged sitting and snacking, contributing to health issues like obesity and diabetes. Intermittent fasting could help counteract these effects, according to research Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Mark Mattson, by promoting weight loss and improving overall health.

Contrary to its popular image as a weight loss and heart health solution, this study revealed alarming associations with cardiovascular risks.

But what does the research say?

Conducted by researchers led by Dr. Victor Zhong of Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, the study analysed data from approximately 20,000 American adults, averaging 49 years of age, who had adopted intermittent fasting.

The findings indicated a significant increase in the risk of cardiovascular death among those adhering to an 8-hour eating window—a staggering 91 per cent higher risk compared to those consuming their meals over 12 to 16 hours.

Furthermore, individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular conditions who restricted their eating to 8 to 10 hours a day faced a 66 per cent elevated risk of death from heart disease or stroke. Surprisingly, the study also noted that cancer patients who extended their eating duration beyond 16 hours were less likely to succumb to the disease.

However, it’s important to note that despite intermittent fasting’s popularity for short-term benefits, the study found no overall reduction in the risk of death from any cause.

Dr. Zhong emphasised the necessity of examining the long-term health implications of such dietary practices, given the unexpected findings regarding cardiovascular risks.

The research also had some limitations…

The study’s limitations were acknowledged, particularly its reliance on self-reported dietary habits and the absence of consideration for various other factors influencing participants’ health.

Dr. Christopher D Gardner of Stanford University pointed out the need for more detailed analyses, including the quality of nutrients consumed and demographic comparisons among different eating schedules, to fully understand the observed effects.

While intermittent fasting may offer short-term advantages, this study raises concerns about its potential long-term adverse effects on cardiovascular health. Further research is required to elucidate the intricate relationship between dietary patterns and overall well-being, urging caution among those considering such restrictive eating regimes.

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