Breaking News
April 19, 2018 - Novel biomarker can distinguish malignant lung nodules
April 19, 2018 - Study reports promising novel approach to treat therapy resistant pediatric brain tumors
April 19, 2018 - One-Hour Plasma Glucose Useful Predictor of Diabetic Retinopathy
April 19, 2018 - Hydroxychloroquine no more effective than placebo for relieving osteoarthritis hand pain
April 19, 2018 - Transplanted livers have a protective effect and reduce potential for organ rejection
April 19, 2018 - Researchers develop new method to study activity of inflammatory cells
April 19, 2018 - Researchers discover highly antibiotic resistant superbugs in Gulf States
April 19, 2018 - U.S. Women Less Likely Than Men to Get Statins After Heart Attack
April 19, 2018 - Atypical brain development observed in preschoolers with ADHD symptoms
April 19, 2018 - SC Johnson releases annual Sustainability Report
April 19, 2018 - Positive attitudes about aging reduce risk of dementia in older adults
April 19, 2018 - Environmental pollutants found to worsen rheumatoid arthritis
April 19, 2018 - UT Southwestern scientists discover protein linked to metastatic breast cancer
April 19, 2018 - Study highlights need for further evidence to improve symptom management in end of life care
April 19, 2018 - Detecting diminished dopamine-firing cells inside brain could reveal earliest signs of Alzheimer’s
April 19, 2018 - Uniqsis offers high-power LED light unit for scalable flow photochemistry reactions
April 19, 2018 - Case study shows how intravascular ultrasound imaging helps detect acute aortic syndrome
April 19, 2018 - Research reveals new mechanism by which HIV evades the immune system
April 19, 2018 - Nanodisc-delivered cancer treatment helps eliminate tumors
April 19, 2018 - Functional connectivity MRI could help detect brain disorders and diseases
April 19, 2018 - Finding better way to quantify neuropathy symptoms and treatment efficacy
April 19, 2018 - Study examines effectiveness of caregiver education about sickle cell trait
April 19, 2018 - High-resolution images of tumor vasculature using new technology
April 19, 2018 - Lack of sleep may be linked to risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease
April 19, 2018 - Study finds neurotransmitter may play a role in alcohol relapse, addiction
April 19, 2018 - Researchers build molecular networks of calcific aortic valve disease
April 19, 2018 - Researchers develop highly specific apoptosis assay for pharmacodynamic analyses of tumor specimens
April 19, 2018 - Scientists decipher mechanism of chemotherapy induced female infertility
April 19, 2018 - New insight may allow researchers to design drugs that improve immune responses to vaccines
April 19, 2018 - FDA Approves Crysvita (burosumab-twza) for X-Linked Hypophosphatemia
April 19, 2018 - Researchers uncover origin of virus-fighting plasma B cells
April 19, 2018 - Study finds no evidence of lower intelligence in young children who had anesthesia
April 19, 2018 - Baboons break out of research facility briefly
April 19, 2018 - Study shows how deployment time increases risk of suicide attempt in soldiers
April 19, 2018 - Specific odors from malaria infected individuals attract more mosquitoes
April 19, 2018 - FDA Alert: Rhino 69 Extreme 50000 by AMA Wholesale: Recall
April 19, 2018 - Top HIV cure research team refutes major recent results on how to identify HIV persistence
April 19, 2018 - Experts propose new solutions to increase benefit, affordability of targeted cancer medicines
April 19, 2018 - Deficiency of innate immune adaptor TRIF shortens survival time of ALS mice
April 19, 2018 - New machine learning method offers better way to detect heart disease
April 19, 2018 - CNIO researchers determine structure of protein complex related to cell survival
April 19, 2018 - Faith-based diabetes support program launched by UTSA research team
April 19, 2018 - Volumetric Laser Endomicroscopy Helps ID Barrett’s Regions
April 19, 2018 - Engineered cartilage template to heal broken bones
April 19, 2018 - New computational framework accurately predicts drug-drug and drug-food interactions
April 18, 2018 - Some human cancers may be result of evolutionary accidents, research finds
April 18, 2018 - Higher levels of education linked to lower dementia risk in older African Americans
April 18, 2018 - Smoking Puts Blacks at Higher Risk for Heart Failure
April 18, 2018 - Physiotherapist contributes to guidelines for knee cartilage treatment
April 18, 2018 - Researchers use ‘top-down proteomics’ strategy to get new insights into cancer
April 18, 2018 - Physician assistants less likely to accurately diagnose early stage skin cancers
April 18, 2018 - New faster, streamlined method for bowel cancer detection and treatment
April 18, 2018 - Researchers identify new Listeria species in Costa Rica
April 18, 2018 - Novel interactive diagram shows many facets of mild traumatic brain injury
April 18, 2018 - Short sleep linked to obesity in children and adolescents
April 18, 2018 - When weight loss helps with sleep
April 18, 2018 - New mathematical model can predict efficiency of microbiome therapies
April 18, 2018 - People with high LDL cholesterol levels likely to get greater benefits from statins
April 18, 2018 - Listening to music enhances effect of anti-hypertensive drugs
April 18, 2018 - New method could help treat severe epilepsy in the future
April 18, 2018 - Study reveals increased risks for Alzheimer’s, suicide among youth in polluted cities
April 18, 2018 - Obese patients more likely to develop rapid and irregular heart rate
April 18, 2018 - Study may change global guidelines for managing children with uncomplicated fever
April 18, 2018 - Researchers find letter we’ve seen millions of times, yet can’t write
April 18, 2018 - Roswell Park researchers identify driver of cancer-promoting metabolic changes
April 18, 2018 - Study shows connection between early life stress, depression and sleep disturbances
April 18, 2018 - New tool developed to protect women from HIV infection
April 18, 2018 - Tradeshow Talks with HealthSapiens
April 18, 2018 - NYC mice carry deadly bacteria and viruses
April 18, 2018 - FDA Approves Tavalisse (fostamatinib disodium hexahydrate) for Chronic Immune Thrombocytopenia
April 18, 2018 - Doctors curbing first-time prescriptions for opioids
April 18, 2018 - Scientists analyze nanostructure of chicken eggshells
April 18, 2018 - Study finds muscle complications among active young adults with Type 1 diabetes
April 18, 2018 - Young children should be priority for snail fever treatment
April 18, 2018 - One class of diabetes drug not associated with reduced risk of death
April 18, 2018 - Breakthrough microscope revolutionizes live cell imaging of stem cells
April 18, 2018 - Study on arthritis prevalence and trends reveals unexpected findings
April 18, 2018 - Low-Vision Rehab Improves Several Elements of Visual Function
April 18, 2018 - Babies who look like their father at birth are healthier one year later: study
April 18, 2018 - New drug for migraine in the pipeline
Intermittent Fasting: Another Fad Diet with Little Supporting Evidence

Intermittent Fasting: Another Fad Diet with Little Supporting Evidence

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

The world of diet and nutrition is both fascinating and challenging because everyone seems to have an opinion about it. We also readily accept the opinions of friends, both in real life and virtually, without much scrutiny. My patients regularly tell me about the all-natural juice cleanses, herbal supplements and the latest diet fads they hear about from friends at the neighborhood barbecue or their children visiting from out of state. They often start these diets after the initial recommendation or after reading a couple blog posts from random people that “Dr. Google” finds for them. When it comes to a pill or vaccine I recommend, suddenly they require detailed statistics and lengthy scientific explanations about the side effects, risks, and benefits. What would happen if we applied that same level of scrutiny to the intermittent fasting diet?

Intermittent fasting diets involve not eating or severely restricting food intake for certain hours of a day, or for certain days of the week. Common patterns include not eating past a certain hour in the evening, alternating days (one day eating normally, the other eating about 30% of normal) or the “5:2” method of eating normally for 5 days, then severely restricting/fasting for 2 days. Proponents point out that intermittent fasting has been used in ancient cultures from India, China, and many parts of Europe and is still practiced today all over the globe.

The claimed health benefits of intermittent fasting are numerous, ranging from weight loss, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease prevention to preventing or even treating cancer. However, most if not all of these claims are not ready for prime-time use because the science behind them is faulty or incomplete.

The biggest and most surprising failure of the intermittent fasting diet is in helping people lose weight. A study in JAMA Internal Medicine compared groups of people trying to lose weight eating a normal calorie-restricted diet versus alternate day fasting. They were studied for one year, which included a 6-month weight loss phase and a 6-month weight maintenance phase.

After 6 months and 12 months, the alternate day fasting group showed no additional weight loss compared to the traditional calorie restriction group. More people quit the alternate day fasting diet compared to simple calorie restriction because they couldn’t maintain it. Cardiovascular health markers like blood sugars, insulin levels, and cholesterol were no better in the alternate day fasting group either. In fact, LDL cholesterol levels were higher in the fasting group. Basically, people are able to eat more on non-fasting days to make up for any weight loss on fasting days. Additionally, fasting can trigger a starvation mode in the body that prevents weight loss and promotes higher blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

The claims that intermittent fasting can prevent cancer or starve a tumor are also based on shaky science. Most of the studies supporting these claims were done in mice or other animals. These often don’t translate to humans. The few human studies available have included very small numbers of patients. Furthermore, they don’t prove that intermittent fasting prevents cancer, only that it affects a blood marker that may be associated with cancer. One such marker is insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). High levels of IGF-1 have been correlated with prostate cancer and colon cancer. A study in mice in 2007 showed that intermittent fasting can lower levels of IGF-1. So it would make sense that intermittent fasting would prevent cancer or starve tumors, right? Not necessarily.

Consider a similar, alternate scenario of angiogenesis in cancer. Angiogenesis is the process of forming new blood vessels, which allows tumors to attract nutrients to grow and spread. Early studies of tumor angiogenesis from the 1970s-1990s were very exciting. It appeared that scientists had discovered the Achilles’s heel of all cancers. Several drugs were developed to inhibit angiogenesis. Despite these drugs effectively blocking angiogenesis and decades of research showing how important angiogenesis is in tumors, the drugs failed to treat most cancers and are only modestly effective in a few.

The human body is complex and sometimes even the most logical conclusions prove to be wrong as was the case with angiogenesis inhibitors. Similarly, assuming the effect of intermittent fasting on IGF-1 or other hormone levels will prevent cancer or starve tumors is inaccurate and potentially dangerous. Many of the claims about preventing Alzheimer’s, strokes, diabetes and aging follow the same logical fallacy.

The good news is, the short-term harms of intermittent fasting are minimal and largely theoretical. People taking medication to lower blood sugar like insulin or medications taken with food could have serious side effects from intermittent fasting. Vitamin and nutritional deficiencies could be worsened by intermittent fasting. Those with eating disorders or obsessive/compulsive tendencies also might have issues with intermittent fasting. Again, these risks are largely theoretical.

The long-term side effects of intermittent fasting are unknown as they have not been studied well in humans. The fact that many cultures have practiced intermittent fasting for millennia doesn’t prove its safety because for most of human history, people died before age 50 of infections and other currently preventable/treatable diseases.

One thing is clear: the intermittent fasting diet might be a good option for your pet mouse. The health benefits for humans remain to be determined.

2018-01-08T15:00:00-0500

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles