Science Says This Is The Best Way To Try Intermittent Fasting

mbg Editorial Assistant By Eliza Sullivan
mbg Editorial Assistant
Eliza Sullivan is an Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She has bachelor's degrees in journalism and english literature from Boston University.
New Study Reveals This Is The Best Way To Try Intermittent Fasting

Image by Marc Tran / Stocksy

Intermittent fasting is the trend taking the world by storm: Google reported it as the most searched diet trend in 2019, and it has many celebrity devotees. We wouldn't be surprised if your resolution plans include some mention of intermittent fasting (IF), but if you're thinking about trying it in the new year, don't go "cold turkey."

The new report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine and authored by Johns Hopkins Medicine neuroscientist Mark Mattson, Ph.D., reviewed previous research regarding the health benefits of IF. Mattson has studied the impacts of IF on health for over two decades (and has been a loyal faster for 20 years). His review concluded that the health benefits of IF aren't just rumor.

But one of the major hurdles facing new fasters is the hunger and emotional changes that come with it. The change in routine can be a slow adjustment, but it's worth the learning curve.

"Patients should be advised that feeling hungry and irritable is common initially," said Mattson, "and usually passes after two weeks to a month as the body and brain become accustomed to the new habit."

In order to prevent this, Mattson advises that those wanting to try fasting begin with gradually increasing the duration and frequency of fasting rather than abruptly jumping into a rigid 5:2 plan or a small limited eating window.

Intermittent fasting is usually done with either restricted eating hours (usually only eating during six or eight hours of a day) or the aforementioned 5:2 plan, which means two days a week eating only one moderate-size meal.

With this study, Mattson hoped to clarify the science and applications of IF for health professionals so that doctors may be able to better help patients who hope to try fasting.

"We are at a transition point where we could soon consider adding information about intermittent fasting to medical school curricula alongside standard advice about healthy diets and exercise," said Mattson.

The benefits of fasting have been linked to supporting a healthy lifestyle overall but also linked specifically to supporting brain health. Previous studies, which were reviewed by Mattson for this report, showed that following a restricted diet plan improved memory in adults. And while more research is needed to assess the clinical validity of IF in medicine, its benefits seem to be about much more than maintaining a healthy weight.

If your plan for the new year include diving into a fasting plan, and you're eating however you wanted until flipping the switch on January 1, Mattson's advice is to plan ahead more. If you're set on trying IF, we have our own beginner's guide to IF and guides to all the different types of intermittent fasting.

Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

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