To or not to eat?
Have you ever had this question when thinking about going on a weight loss diet or trying to improve your health?
Which one is better to shift those pounds. Do I need to start every day with breakfast or should I forgo it and wait till later in the day?
Does a particular choice make a difference to my health or how quickly I lose the pounds?
Well, the scientific answer is no –there is no evidence showing one is better than the other for almost any reason in terms of health or weight loss.
But there is a nuance to eating and dieting. There are personal preferences and an adherence aspect that comes into play in the free world where we are in control of our choices.
So yes it can make a difference but that is because nutrition is personal and subjective to the individual and not a one size fits all.
It does seem that diets tend to cycle in terms of their popularity – they go in and out of favour every few years.
Right now intermittent fasting seems to be on the up, especially for its purported health benefits.
So what is intermittent fasting or IF?
The simple version is it is not eating for a few hours or missing a meal or two. But most people have different definitions. Some would use it by skipping breakfast and having their first meal at lunch or later in the day.
Others might not eat for 24 hours and then resume the next day as normal. So you see you can chop in change – miss breakfast and lunch some days, not eat for a day or a few and then carry on.
All of this is intermittent fasting.
So are there benefits to weight loss with IF?
Yes, if the fasting leads you to eat fewer calories. If you do not eat for a day and keep the remaining 6 out of 7 the same you will lose weight because of the calorie deficit.
If you skip breakfast and lunch and only eat later in the day but keep the evening meals the same you will lose weight because of the calorie deficit.
But please note this – if fasting causes you to overconsume on the remaining meals you will not lose weight at all. You could even put on weight if you eat more than before.
But what about health?
Are there any benefits to not eating?
Well no –not compared to any other diet that puts you in a calorie deficit.
The big one that those who champion IF is called autophagy – the turnover and clearance of dead cells. So is this a benefit from IF?
It certainly is but no more so than any other diet that puts you in a calorie deficit.
And what about giving your digestive system a break? It’s about as relevant as giving your lungs a break from breathing. Organs have a job to do and don’t need a break. Things, of course, do go wrong with an extreme excess over prolonged periods but this has nothing to do with IF but more of calorie control.
Most of the benefits that are said to have come from IF are only found in cell and animal studies not human trials.
So if intermittent fasting works for you great stick to it. If you feel hungrier and less in control, then it’s not for you.
Whatever you decide just don’t drink the Kool-Aid and fall the hype either way.
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