The New Eating Strategy - Intermittent Fasting: Is It Right For You?

fastingAs each new year begins, many people across the nation renew their focus on their diet and exercise plans. While some set typical goals for getting back in the gym, others look for the latest approaches to promote healthy weight loss and fitness. A new eating strategy, intermittent fasting, is gaining popularity, but some experts say it may not be a healthy option. Channel 8 News’s Sonia Azad recently spoke with one person who has found success with intermittent fasting as well as Dr. Hector Nazario with The Liver Institute at Methodist Dallas as an expert on the potential negative side effects.

Azad interviewed several people to find out about their approaches to getting fit in 2016. Some are focused on eating better by staying organic or stripping sodas and carbs from their diet and also incorporating a heavy lifting regimen. While at least two in the group have lost 50 pounds with these more traditional methods, Chris Phillips shared his positive results with intermittent fasting.

Phillips began researching intermittent fasting over the last year. “It’s not a diet; it’s an eating strategy,” he says. According to some studies, advantages may include weight loss, insulin resistance, a reduction in inflammation, heart health as well as cancer and anti-aging benefits.

What exactly is intermittent fasting? For two to three days a week, participants eat only a fraction of what they would normally eat in a day. Over a period of 16 to 18 hours, nothing is eaten. Once the fasting period is over, a sizeable, normal meal is incorporated. In Chris’s case, he will fast from 9 p.m. until 1 p.m. the next day and will then consume around 1,200 calories in a single sitting.

Statistics from an April 2015 study show that people who intermittently fast presented around a nine percent body weight loss over a six month period, about the same as those using traditional dieting methods. Additionally, approximately eighty percent of participants were able to stick with the program. While these results seem promising, some experts have concerns about the effects on the body over time.

“Fasting for long periods of time is not the right thing to do,” Dr. Hector Nazario, Gastroenterologist and Chief of the Division of Hepatology at The Liver Institute at Methodist Dallas, stated. He went on to describe how fasting and then binge eating can cause harmful changes in the liver and digestive systems. Specifically, participants may see changes in their bowel habits such as constipation or diarrhea.

Intermittent fasting, while successful for some, is not for everyone. Azad spoke with one person who tried the program last year but found that she would gorge herself during the eight-hour eating period, preventing the expected weight loss. Phillips, however, eats sensibly on his non-fasting days and has lost ten pounds through intermittent fasting. He also finds that, for him, the strategy is easier to stick with long-term.

As with most new diets, there are experts on both sides of the debate surrounding the risks and benefits of intermittent fasting. Experts strongly warn insulin-dependent diabetics, pregnant and nursing women against this plan. As with any diet or exercise program, a physician should be consulted prior to intermittently fasting.

See the full story on intermittent fasting featuring Dr. Hector Nazario on Channel 8 News here!