There has been a lot of publicity about the weight loss benefits of intermittent fasting but even if you don’t need to lose any weight, there are some huge health benefits to limiting the time you eat.
Neuroscientist professor Mark Mattson, from John Hopkins University, has been looking into how fasting can be an anti-aging tonic for the brain. In experiments that Mattson and colleagues have done in the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging, they've found that limiting the hours that you eat at least twice a week can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease by protecting the neurons against accumulation of amyloid plaques, a protein connect with Alzheimer’s.
Mattson says that time-restricted fasting is the most successful method of both losing weight and improving brain health. He explains that glycogen is stored in your liver every time you eat. This glycogen, a byproduct of glucose, takes 10-12 hours to be depleted after which time the body starts burning fats – a process known as ketosis. The ketones improve connections in the hippocampus and synapses promoting better memory, learning and overall brain health.
Further studies have also shown that intermittent fasting helps the body accelerate the process of autophagy, the body’s way of generating new cells and getting rid of damaged ones which scientists say help prolong lifespan. A 2013 study also found it improves mood, easing depression.
The most popular time-restricted fasting regime is the 16:8 diet. Put simply you eat all your meals and snacks in an eight-hour window. This allows your body to deplete the glycogens and then work on neural regeneration in the 16 hours your fasting. During the fasting times you can have clear liquids and black tea and coffee.
The easiest way to do this is to incorporate your sleep into this fasting period. Most people prefer to fast from dinner (finishing at 8pm), forgoing breakfast and breaking their fast after midday but it’s flexible to work with what works best in your lifestyle.
So try limiting your eating window now for all round health benefits.
Belinda Wanis has a degree in psychology and has worked as a journalist for almost 20 years. She is a mentor and consults on media strategy, content and branding.