Intermittent fasting – “Why skipping breakfast could be health beneficial ”
Concentration on weight loss, hormonal balance and the effects on aging
Everybody remembers the sentence “eat your breakfast, it is the most important meal of the day”. Recent studies by the NPD group, a market research group, revealed that only in America 31 million, 10% of the population, skips breakfast on a regular basis (NPD, 2016 ). More and more people started skipping breakfast on purpose when they follow the so called ‘intermitted fasting diets’ with the aim of improving their health. The following text will discuss the reasons why skipping breakfast can be health improving with a special look on weight gain, aging and hormonal balance of people above 18 and the dietary concept of intermitted fasting.
Intermitted fasting is a long known and performed dietary method. Hindu yogis, Chinese Taoists, and many groups throughout South America and Africa have regularly fasted since antiquity not to mention the Ramadan in the middle east. This phenomenon happened as well in western cultures like the Greeks and its big philosophers like Plato, Hippocrates and Aristoteles were well known fasteners (Clark ,2017).
There are numerous ways of practicing a fasting diet. Most known fasting diets focus on a period of one up to seven days where no solid food is consumed. Those diets are only restricted to a specific period. On the contrary Intermitted fasting is a diet that can be applied on the long term. The concept of intermitted fasting consists of two phases, one fasting phase of 16 up to 20 hours and an eating phase of eight to four hours per day. The most common and recommended approach of applying intermitted fasting is to fast until 12pm and stop eating at 8pm in the evening. The first question this text is going to attempt is: Does intermitted fasting help with weight loss?
First of all, the main condition for weight loss is a caloric deficit which means that more calories are burned due a reduction of the daily required calories or physical activity, than are consumed (Mayo Clinic, 2016). This also applies to intermitted fasting which does only result in weight loss when a caloric deficit is provided. Clinical trials showed that both, daily calorie restriction and intermitted fasting have both equal beneficial effects on overweight and obese individuals (Harvie et al., 2011). All effective diets rely on the nutritional quality of food that is consumed. Nutrients such as fat, vitamins, fiber, protein and minerals are gradually important to consume during the eating phase since they are not provided while fasting (Dirks & Leeuwenburgh, 2006). Summing up it is conceivable to say that intermitted fasting will not necessarily lead to a weight loss, but does when combined with a caloric deficit and a good choice of food products that are consumed.
Nevertheless, intermitted fasting has beneficial effects that met or exceed those of caloric restriction when changing a diet. Intermitted fasting has proved to have numerous properties on health and especially on the hormonal balance.
At the outset, it influences insulin sensitivity. Insulin is an essential hormone that has the purpose to convert glucose to the cells in muscles, fat and liver when food is consumed or to transform it to fat when there is an excess. Furthermore, it contributes to the metabolic process of breaking down fat and protein (Hormone, 2016). Poor insulin sensitivity has been linked to type 2 diabetes and an increasing risk of cancer as well as issues of the digestive system to absorb nutrients and burn fat. Intermitted fasting has the capability to increase insulin sensitivity and therefore regulate the glucose regulation, lower the risk of cancer and diabetes (Well.org, 2015). Furthermore, studies published at the Journal of Clinical Investigation found out that intermitted fasting has the ability of increasing the so-called growth-hormone especially in men (Ho et al., 1988a). The human growth hormone is produced in a small gland in the brain and serves the purpose of regulating growth and metabolism. It helps breaking down nutrients and make it useful for energy conversion and nutrients admission (Hormone, 2016). Finally, according studies by R. Michael Anson, a professor for biochemist at the university of Maryland, found out that intermitted fasting has an impact on the life-span of cells, in other words: the aging process. It influences the nervous system by stimulating fundamental oxygen radical metabolism and the cellular stress response system. These systems are responsible to protect organisms from external damage such as heat, UV light, trace metals and free radicals (Chemistry of Life, 2007). In this way neurons are protected against genetic and external factors to which they would expire during aging (Anson, 2003). These benefits are only a small extract of the numerous beneficial effects of intermitted fasting.
Nevertheless, intermitted fasting is not recommended to use by everyone. Especially children should not make use of intermitted fasting. Studies at the Population Health Research Institute at St. George’s University found out that children who skipped breakfast are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes in the long-term. This is true because children, in contrary to adults, develop an insulin resistance and higher insulin levels due to fasting (Diabetes Queensland, 2014).
Moreover, it is important to have an intact stress response before any fast. According to Dr. Sara Gottfried, who co-hosts The Health Bridge, fasting could potentially be dangerous for anyone who’s cortisol levels are not working correctly (Well.org, 2015). Importantly, intermitted fasting is not recommended for pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding and any individual who has issues with blood sugar regulation especially type 2 diabetes (Dirks & Leeuwenburgh, 2006).
Like already mentioned above it is highly recommended to drink enough water to both alleviate the feeling of hunger and to stay hydrated. Furthermore, it is suggested to break your fast with any kind of high fructose fruit. The human body has two types of glycogen storages. First the primary muscular glycogen storage and secondly a glycogen storage in the liver. After a long period of fast, in this case 16 up to 20 hours, both the muscular and liver glycogen storages are empty and need to be refilled. According to studies that are published at the US National Library of Medicine fructose has little effect on restoring the muscular glycogen storage, but is highly effective on rapid accumulation glycogen in the liver (Conlee, Lawler, & Ross, 1987).
As a conclusion, it is possible to say that intermitted fasting has indeed health enhancing effects when practiced in a correct way. If combined with a caloric deficit intermitted fasting can lead to a weight loss over the fact that it has the ability of regulating the hormonal balance. Nevertheless, it is indispensable to contact a doctor to have an exhaustive overview over the current health condition before attempting any new diet. Furthermore, it is important to say that no diet is effective in the long- term when it results in excruciating restrictions. This also applies to intermitted fasting. Breakfast is still one of the most important meals to be consumed within a family or friends. Exceptions should be undertaken to stay motivated and to be able to enjoy a celebration without having to face any social excluding.
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