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Fad diets: Let’s talk about intermittent fasting

As we learned in this three-part series, fad diets are defined as diets that are extremely popular for a short period of time.

They often promise quick weight loss or health improvements without much independently reviewed scientific data to back their claims. The biggest problem with fad diets is that they generally don’t work long term. The failure rate of these diets should be a huge red flag for consumers. Roughly 90% of people who lose weight on these diets will eventually regain the weight and find themselves feeling discouraged and defeated.

Today, is the last fad diet in our series, let’s discover intermittent fasting.

Intermittent Fasting is the diet making its way to center stage, and you can expect to be hearing much more about it in the media. Intermittent fasting is based on specific, scheduled periods of eating and fasting which is a simple way to reduce your calorie intake. For example, one type of IF is the 16:8, which uses a fasting window (a time without food) of 16 hours and an eating window of 8 hours within a twenty-four-hour day. A second approach to IF is known as the 5:2. This approach translates to two days per week where you eat 500 calories or less per day. Many fad diets provide quick, but temporary, weight loss due to a significant reduction in calories, and IF is no exception. Caution: it’s suggested that a low-calorie diet such as this be monitored by a medical professional.

The benefits of this eating approach is that your body has breaks from digesting food, which results in better hormone balance and improved food digestion, brain health, and weight loss. It also can improve insulin response, which results in reduced total body inflammatory markers. The habit of Americans “eating around the clock” is believed to be unhealthy and can lead to disease. It’s always best to go to bed without a lot of food in your stomach for your body to digest, and IF eating windows can help you accomplish this. The IF diet works to improve unhealthy eating patterns. One study found that IF can increase fat burning while preserving muscle mass, which can in turn improve metabolism. However, a recent smaller study showed that IF does not preserve lean muscle mass, so that one is up for debate.

The downsides of intermittent fasting falls include blood-sugar drops that can be harmful for people with diabetes, low body weight, eating disorders, and pregnant or breastfeeding women. These groups should be especially cautious and talk to a professional before beginning intermittent fasting. Also, with the strict eating window, it’s common to struggle to eat enough food during mealtimes, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies and other problems.

In this three-part series, we discussed the pros and cons of the Paleo Diet, the Keto Diet, and today Intermittent Fasting. We have learned that fad diets are not meant to be your lifetime eating plan, because they fall short in nutrients and can be extremely difficult to maintain long-term.

However, stay tuned, as next month we tie up the series, in part 4 as we will discover the six diet principles that will keep your weight off and, most importantly, continue to build health as you transition from the popular fad diet to a long-term sensible health-building nutrition plan.

Fran Sutherlin is a local registered dietitian, health coach, speaker and owner of Sustainable Nutrition, which has offices in Durango and Bayfield and offers virtual-coaching options. She can be reached at 444-2122 or fran@fransutherlin.com.