According to scientists from Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute, intermittent fasting raises the levels of a protein linked to the body's inflammatory response known as galectin-3.
It's a significant finding because inflammation is at the heart of many chronic diseases facing Americans, such as heart disease. Allowing the body to fight inflammation can reduce these risks. However, this approach to eating can be especially helpful when it comes to metabolic issues and insulin resistance.
One part of the study looked at 67 patients between the ages of 21 and 70 who were dealing with one or more metabolic syndrome features or suffering from type 2 diabetes. All of those chosen had elevated levels of LDL cholesterol and were not taking any statins or anti-diabetic medications.
The scientists placed 36 of these patients on an intermittent fasting schedule that involved two 24-hour periods of fasting, during which only water could be consumed, across a span of four weeks. For the following 22 weeks, they were instructed to fast just one day per week. Their fasts were never carried out on consecutive days. At the same time, the remaining participants were instructed not to make any lifestyle or dietary changes.
At the end of the 26 weeks, the researchers found that the fasting group had significantly higher levels of galectin-3 as well as lower rates of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Therefore, they believe that the process of intermittent fasting has effects that are similar to a type of medication that is used to lower high glucose levels in type 2 diabetes patients known as SGLT-2 inhibitors.
Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute Director of Cardiovascular and Genetic Epidemiology Dr. Benjamin Horne, the study’s lead author, said: “In finding higher levels of galectin-3 in patients who fasted, these results provide an interesting mechanism potentially involved in helping reduce the risk of heart failure and diabetes.”
He added that one factor that makes fasting such a promising solution is the fact that it is a routine that patients find easy to stick to over the long term. Moreover, the study found that even occasional fasting can have a positive effect on health. Their findings were presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2021.
This finding supports those of previous studies. Recent research has also shown that in addition to reducing blood sugar levels and body weight, fasting can reduce insulin resistance.
Lenox Hill Hospital Endocrinologist Dr. Minisha Sood told Healthline that the human body is designed to fast on a regular basis in order to give the liver a chance to clean itself out.
She said: “Looking at how many hours during the day is one consuming calories, if it’s more than 12 or 11 hours, that time frame needs to be shortened.”
Experiencing these benefits does not require any sort of deliberate fasting; it could just be a question of extending the length of time between dinner and breakfast when you are not eating overnight. However, the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute study suggests that longer periods of fasting may be beneficial to diabetics.
In addition to fasting, Dr. Sood said that limiting processed foods and refined sugars while eating healthier fats can help people to reduce their risk of disease and maintain a healthier metabolism.
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