BYH, watching this administration is like watching a mob movie....

Jury is out on benefits of fasting


Kathy Kolasa


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Q: I thought intermittent fasting was a fad diet, but I heard a reputable speaker talk about it. What do you think? RJ, Greenville.

A: Once considered a fad, intermittent fasting is the target for serious research. The results of new studies do not paint a clear picture for us. Connie Zhong, a Brody medical student will tell you what we know about intermittent fasting as of today.

It could change. If you are on medications, however, talk with your doctor before you try this approach to weight management.

In recent years, various diets such as the ketogenic diet, vegan diet, paleo diet and intermittent fasting have gained popularity in the news for their advertised results.

Intermittent fasting is when one stays away from eating or drinking for a certain amount of time or certain amount of food. One example is alternate-day fasting, when one fasts for one day, then the next eats whatever he or she wants. Research studies have shown mixed results but have documented a possible decrease in cholesterol and perhaps an average of a 2.5 percent reduction in weight in 22 days. Thus, someone who weighed 200 pounds would lose around 5 pounds in 3 weeks. However, extreme hunger and its negative effects on work and mood may make it difficult to stick to an alternate-day fasting regimen. A person might not be able to concentrate or have no energy on the day without food.

Another example is modified fasting, where one restricts how much he or she eats by 20-25 percent — or cutting out 400-500 calories if you eat 2,000 calories a day — on two days of the week. There are no limitations on eating the other 5 days. Several studies have shown weight loss, ranging from 3 percent to 8 percent (or 6 to 16 pounds for a 200 pound person) in 2 or 3 months. Cholesterol, fat, and insulin levels may go down in some but not all people who try this diet. Many overeat on days off or eat a high fat or sugar diet. If you do this type of fast, it is important to eat healthy foods and drinks on the five off days. Be mindful and eat vegetables at every meal and stay away from sugar sweetened drinks. Unlike alternate-day fasting, people who did modified fasting actually reported feeling more full and had generally improved mood.

The last example is time-restricted fasting, when one only eats at certain hours of the day, such as from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Some studies have shown weight loss of 2 percent to 4 percent (or 4-8 pounds for a person weighing 200 pounds) in 8 weeks. Other studies report no change in weight, fat or insulin levels.

The benefits of fasting may be due to a couple of different effects. The first is its effect on the circadian clock. Animals including people have an internal clock that is in charge of your sleep-wake cycle. Eating outside of the normal time frame  — like late at night — can disrupt the clock and affect the liver, fat and muscle cells. Because your body is not as sensitive to sugar from meals at night, your glucose levels may increase more than they would during the day. Your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer may be higher if you regularly eat late at night.

The second effect is on your gut microbiota. Your gut has a lot of bacteria and other tiny microorganisms that affect how you metabolize or break down your food. Eating within particular time frames during the day leads to more fluctuations in amount and type of bacteria during the day. Having an increased variety of bacteria may help improve your body’s process of breaking down food and using the nutrients in what you ate.

Fasting may also affect how much food you eat, how much energy you spend and quality of sleep. People who intermittently fast may not eat as much because they simply have less time to eat. Although there has been limited research in humans, studies in mice have shown that fasting may lead to increased physical activity. Finally, eating late at night has been shown to disrupt sleep — both decreasing the amount and quality of sleep. Poor sleep is linked to higher risks of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer. Thus, intermittent fasting can help you lose weight by simply decreasing the amount you eat and/or help you sleep better at night.

The bottom line is that there still needs to be more research before health care professionals can say if and who might benefit from this approach to weight management. Fasting is more likely to lead to improved health outcomes when combined with other lifestyle modifications such as exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. People with certain health conditions such as diabetes should avoid intermittent fasting because of risks of extremely low blood sugar. People who take medications for high blood pressure or heart disease may also be at risk of adverse effects from having electrolyte abnormalities like low calcium, potassium, or magnesium. A visit with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can help you find the type of eating approach that would best meet your goals.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.


October 19, 2019

Mums, mums, mums the word. We are talking about chrysanthemums of course!

The vivid autumn colors that signal the arrival of fall on nearly every doorstep. While they are most commonly used as an annual container planting (as seen in the accompanying photo) these blooms are much more versatile than…


October 16, 2019

I don’t know about you, but my life passed “busy” 15 exits ago. It seems that there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done. My life can get so hectic that I don’t always eat healthy. I tend to eat a lot of fast food or choose lunch and dinner options that…

Chrislyn and Mike Wedderien.jpg

October 16, 2019

Q: I saw the news that it’s ok to eat red and processed meat. What and who do I believe? J and B H. Formerly of Greenville

A: Yes, a surprising study was released the week of Sept. 30 saying that eating less red meat may not make your healthier. It found fault with previous nutrition studies…

Kolasa, Kathy

October 09, 2019

Pitt Partners for Health is celebrating a quarter century of helping community residents live healthier lives.

Established in 1995, PPH is Pitt County’s community health coalition. The group is led by a steering committee whose members represent Vidant Medical Center, the Pitt County Health…


October 09, 2019

Around the globe parents are buckling their children into car seats with the very best intentions. Unfortunately, some are missing the mark, placing their most precious cargo in danger.

Following the fine points of car seat safety can reduce the risk of a child’s death in a car crash by as…


October 09, 2019

Every day we have to figure out what we want to eat. Our taste buds, the weather and even our emotions help us determine what we choose to feed not only our bellies, but our souls. We often choose foods and tastes that bring back memories. I talk about this often: food and memory go hand-in-hand.…


October 09, 2019

Dear readers: I heard from many of you last week in response to the headlines that “there was no need to cut down on red and processed meat.” We just were able to get copies of the original studies — five systematic reviews — and several medical students, colleagues and I…

Kolasa, Kathy

October 02, 2019

Downtown Greenville has been growing in leaps and bounds over the last five years and there is no sign it’s stopping anytime soon. You can find shiny, new high-rise student housing, fun clubs, bars, restaurants and everything in-between, all within a mile of ECU’s campus. The Bodega…


October 02, 2019

Q: I recently developed gout. An old friend of mine dug a piece of well-worn paper from his wallet. It was a list of foods someone told him to avoid a long time ago. He said it pretty much works for him. Is this an old wives’ tale or are there scientific recommendations on how to…

Kolasa, Kathy

September 29, 2019

The Service League of Greenville recently awarded a new scholarship it created with the East Carolina University Medical and Health Sciences Foundation and held the first in series of book signings at the fundraising gift shops it operates at Vidant Medical Center.

The league endowed the…

Joey Jones
67 stories in Look. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 7
        Next Page»   Last Page»