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Intermittent Fasting For 14 Hours Can Improve Sleep And Mood Study Reveals Health News

One of the contemporary nutrition controversies that continues to intrigue researchers is intermittent fasting (IF), a dietary approach with both proponents and skeptics. The latest study on this subject, conducted by a team of scientists from King's College London, led by Sarah Berry, suggests significant benefits related to both sleep and mood.

The study, the largest of its kind in the UK, explores the effects of restricting eating to a ten-hour window. According to the researchers, this practice is associated with increased energy levels, improved mood, and reduced hunger. While intermittent fasting involves limiting food intake to specific time frames, the proposed ten-hour period investigated by Berry's team suggests positive health outcomes, even though some advocates often endorse more restrictive eating windows, such as six hours.

The study's key findings, presented at the European Nutrition Conference under the title "Ten hour time-restricted eating (TRE) is associated with improvements in energy, mood, hunger, and weight in free-living settings: The ZOE BIG IF Study," highlight the positive effects of consistent adherence to a ten-hour feeding window. Participants who maintained a regular feeding schedule experienced greater benefits compared to those with variable eating windows from day to day.

Sarah Berry, the lead researcher, expressed excitement about the study's implications, stating, "This is the largest study outside of a tightly controlled clinic to show that intermittent fasting can improve your health in a real world setting. What's really exciting is that the findings show that you don’t have to be very restrictive to see positive results. A ten-hour eating window, which was manageable for most people, and improved mood, energy levels and hunger. We found for the first time that those who practised time-restricted eating, but were not consistent day to day, did not have the same positive health effects as those who were dedicated every day."

The noteworthy aspect is that positive results were observed without the need for extreme restrictions. A manageable ten-hour eating window led to improvements in mood, energy levels, and hunger management.

The study involved 37,545 participants, all users of the ZOE Health app, completing a three-week primary intervention period. Participants were instructed to eat normally for the first week and then adopt a ten-hour feeding window for the subsequent two weeks. Notably, participants with a longer feeding period before the intervention experienced even greater health benefits.

Co-author Kate Bermingham emphasised the growing body of evidence highlighting the significance of eating patterns. She stated, "This study adds to the growing body of evidence showing the importance of how you eat." The findings suggest that meal timing is a crucial dietary behavior that can positively impact health, emphasising that constant eating is not necessary for satiety and weight management.

However, it's essential to scrutinise the study's details. It is an observational study, relying on statistical analysis of proposed variables without peer review. Moreover, the specific demographic focus on women over 60 among the 27,000 volunteers raises concerns about generalising the conclusions to different age groups. Additionally, the scientific advisors of the ZOE Health app, including Berry and Bermingham, pose a potential conflict of interest.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a dietary approach that involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting. Rather than focusing solely on the types of foods consumed, intermittent fasting emphasises when those foods are eaten, with various methods ranging from daily time-restricted eating windows to more extended periods of fasting on specific days. This practice is believed to influence factors such as weight loss, metabolic health, and overall well-being.

Various Intermittent Fasting Methods

1. The 16/8 Method (Time-Restricted Eating): This approach involves fasting for 16 hours daily and restricting eating to an 8-hour window. It is one of the most popular methods, often referred to as time-restricted eating.

2. Alternate-Day Fasting: This method alternates between days of regular eating and days of significant calorie restriction or complete fasting. It can be more challenging for some individuals due to the alternating nature of the regimen.

3. 5:2 Diet: Also known as the Fast Diet, this approach involves consuming a regular diet for five days of the week and drastically reducing calorie intake (usually around 500-600 calories) on the remaining two non-consecutive days.

4. Eat-Stop-Eat: This method involves a 24-hour fast once or twice a week, where individuals refrain from eating from dinner one day to dinner the next day.

5. Warrior Diet: This method consists of eating small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables during the day and consuming one large meal at night, typically within a 4-hour window.

Potential Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

1. Weight Loss and Fat Loss: Many studies suggest that intermittent fasting can be effective for weight loss and reducing body fat. The restricted eating windows often result in a decreased overall calorie intake.

2. Improved Metabolism: Some research indicates that intermittent fasting may enhance metabolic health by improving insulin sensitivity and promoting better blood sugar control.

3. Cellular Repair and Autophagy: Fasting periods may stimulate autophagy, a cellular process that removes damaged components and promotes cellular repair. This could contribute to overall longevity and health.

4. Heart Health: Intermittent fasting may positively impact cardiovascular health by reducing risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglycerides.

5. Brain Health: Some studies suggest that intermittent fasting may have neuroprotective effects, potentially reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases and promoting cognitive function.

6. Enhanced Hormone Regulation: Fasting periods can lead to changes in hormone levels, including increased levels of norepinephrine and human growth hormone, which play roles in fat burning and muscle preservation.

7. Improved Mood and Mental Well-being: The recent study from King's College London, as mentioned earlier, indicates potential benefits in terms of mood and energy levels, suggesting a positive impact on mental well-being.

Considerations and Caution

While intermittent fasting shows promise, it may not be suitable for everyone. Individuals with certain medical conditions, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and those with a history of eating disorders should approach intermittent fasting with caution and consult with healthcare professionals.

In conclusion, intermittent fasting is a diverse field with various methods and potential health benefits. As with any dietary approach, it's crucial for individuals to choose a method that aligns with their lifestyle and health goals and to consult with healthcare providers if they have any concerns or pre-existing health conditions.

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Source: Kings College London