Intermittent fasting has been proposed in recent years as a way to improve health. But does it? A review of research on this topic was published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine. One of the authors of the literature review, Dr. Mark Mattson of Johns Hopkins University, practices intermittent fasting himself.
“Preclinical studies and clinical trials have shown that intermittent fasting has broad-spectrum benefits for many health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, cancers, and neurologic disorders,” the authors concluded.
Fasting triggers the body to switch its source of energy. When blood glucose levels are low, the liver makes an alternative fuel source, ketones, by breaking down fat.
As The National Institute on Aging notes, many past studies of fasting have involved animals. Human studies have not involved fasting over an extended period of time, so the impact on human lifespan is not yet known.
However, past animal studies have found that fasting can slow tumor growth. Dr. Mattson is involved in studies attempting to determine whether intermittent fasting could help reduce cancer risk in humans.