Intermittent fasting - pure nonsense or a miracle diet?

For many cultures, eating three proper meals is part of their daily routine. Often these meals are supplemented by other snacks, so that many people regularly eat at intervals of only a few hours. But to what extent does this lifestyle correspond to human physiology?

While the amount of people suffering from obesity is steadily increasing globally, so is health awareness in large parts of the population - with new diets and eating habits constantly being developed. Lately, intermittent fasting has become quite popular. Unlike other diets, intermittent fasting does not rely on multiple low-calorie meals a day. Instead, it restricts food intake entirely. Phases of food intake should alternate with prolonged abstinence. Intermittent fasting is divided into different forms: A common combination is based on a 16-hour fast, followed by eight hours in which, more or less, all types of food may be eaten. Other variants include a fasting of 20 hours or more, with one or two days between each meal. From an evolutionary point of view, longer periods of fasting do make sense. Despite our rapid cultural and technical progress, our physiology as humans has changed very little over the past millennia. The human body is designed to withstand prolonged starvation. For this reason, our bodies build up energy reserves when food is easily accessible. Many scientists view this contrast between modern life and archaic physiology as being one of the causes of the emergence of civilization diseases. These diseases include obesity, diabetes mellitus type 2 and cardiovascular diseases.

More and more, science is taking notice of fasting as a feasible alternative to more traditional diets, as past findings point to the positive effects of food abstinence for health and life expectancy. Still, scientists doubt the transferability of the results to humans, since the results are based on animal experiments. Although some studies have also shown positive effects on the human metabolism, the underlying mechanisms and long-term effects, as well as their impact on disease development and progression, remain part of current scientific research. Intermittent fasting can be a useful element to live a healthier lifestyle. With regard to  weight reduction, however, the results are considered moderate, as fasting only takes effect over a long period of time. In addition, an excessive diet should be avoided when not fasting.

As with all diets, it is the amount of calories consumed that determines the amount of weight loss. A balanced diet together with regular exercise, is the key to a healthy lifestyle. However, fasting phases can help compensate for minor sins, and even help achieve and maintain our desired weight goals on the scales in the long term.

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