The ketogenic diet is a mainstream dietary therapy that was developed to reproduce the success and remove the limitations of the non-mainstream use of fasting to treat epilepsy.[Note 2] Although popular in the 1920s and '30s, it was largely abandoned in favour of new anticonvulsant drugs. Most individuals with epilepsy can successfully control their seizures with medication. However, 20–30% fail to achieve such control despite trying a number of different drugs. For this group, and for children in particular, the diet has once again found a role in epilepsy management.
So how exactly does intermittent fasting work? There are two main approaches. The first method: You limit yourself to 500 calories per day, with alternate days that have no food or calorie restrictions. The second method: You limit the time period of when you can eat to an 8- to 10-hour window. For example, your meals are contained within the hours of 9 am and 7 p.m. Each approach has its pros and cons, so it may take some experimenting to find which way works for you. But no matter which method you choose, periodic fasting is scientifically proven to burn fat effectively without losing too much muscle or dropping your metabolism.
Most of us have contemplated going on a diet. When we find a diet that appeals to us, it seems as if it will be a breeze to do. But when we get into the nitty gritty of it, it becomes tough. For example, I stay on a low–carb diet almost all the time. But if I think about going on a low–fat diet, it looks easy. I think about bagels, whole wheat bread and jelly, mashed potatoes, corn, bananas by the dozen, etc. — all of which sound appealing. But were I to embark on such a low–fat diet I would soon tire of it and wish I could have meat and eggs. So a diet is easy in contemplation, but not so easy in the long–term execution.
While it may sound counterintuitive, eating before going to a work dinner or happy hour can actually take off pounds. A series of studies out of Penn State found that noshing on an apple or a broth-based soup prior to sitting down to a restaurant meal can reduce total calorie intake by 20 percent. With the average restaurant meal weighing in at 1,128 calories, saving 20 percent once a day could help you lose up to 23 pounds this year.
There are a lot of food myths I used to eat up, but it turns out breakfast isn't the most important meal of the day (no data actually proves that it makes you healthier or thinner), eating frequently doesn't necessarily boost your metabolism (with a constant supply of carbs circulating through your system, your body can't burn fat) and, contrary to popular opinion, hunger pangs don't automatically lead to overeating. I used to answer the call of cravings like I spring to the ding of a text—often and with urgency—but fasting taught me how to be comfortable with the discomfort of hunger. Now I think of pangs like I think of my mother: Sometimes overbearing, always opinionated, but their alarm bell advice isn't always right or even warranted. What helped? Coffee, tea, keeping a schedule (see above) and knowing that hunger is just a sensation that comes and goes. Just make sure you don't take it too far, because intermittent fasting doesn't mean you should be starving yourself.
Islam engages in a fasting practice reflective of intermittent fasting in terms of both food consumption and diet consistency. The duration of the Ramadan fast is between 28 and 30 days, depending on the year, and consists of not eating or drinking from sunrise until sunset. During the holiday, Muslims eat twice per day: once in the morning before dawn and once in the evening after dusk. A meta-analysis on the health of Muslims during Ramadan shows significant weight loss during the fasting period of up to 1.51 kilograms (3.3 lb), but this weight was regained within about two weeks of Ramadan ending. The analysis concluded that "Ramadan provides an opportunity to lose weight, but structured and consistent lifestyle modifications are necessary to achieve lasting weight loss." Negative effects of Ramadan fasting include increased risk of hypoglycemia in diabetics as well as inadequate levels of certain nutrients.
A study with an intent-to-treat prospective design was published in 1998 by a team from the Johns Hopkins Hospital and followed-up by a report published in 2001. As with most studies of the ketogenic diet, no control group (patients who did not receive the treatment) was used. The study enrolled 150 children. After three months, 83% of them were still on the diet, 26% had experienced a good reduction in seizures, 31% had had an excellent reduction, and 3% were seizure-free.[Note 7] At 12 months, 55% were still on the diet, 23% had a good response, 20% had an excellent response, and 7% were seizure-free. Those who had discontinued the diet by this stage did so because it was ineffective, too restrictive, or due to illness, and most of those who remained were benefiting from it. The percentage of those still on the diet at two, three, and four years was 39%, 20%, and 12%, respectively. During this period, the most common reason for discontinuing the diet was because the children had become seizure-free or significantly better. At four years, 16% of the original 150 children had a good reduction in seizure frequency, 14% had an excellent reduction, and 13% were seizure-free, though these figures include many who were no longer on the diet. Those remaining on the diet after this duration were typically not seizure-free, but had had an excellent response.
Every study seems to support cognitive and health benefits for IF. Studies are coming out showing it may help stave off heart disease and it’s even been shown to halt or possibly reverse brain-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s. If in doubt, check out Jason Fung’s youtube videos along with a couple of youtube researchers who do wonderful analytics, an American who lives in Japan who goes by, “Things I’ve Learned” and Thomas DeLauer’s IF material. I’ve been doing IF myself for a few months now and I feel better, more energy, better sleep, and controlled weight.
There’s a ton of incredibly promising intermittent fasting (IF) research done on fat rats. They lose weight, their blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugars improve… but they’re rats. Studies in humans, almost across the board, have shown that IF is safe and incredibly effective, but really no more effective than any other diet. In addition, many people find it difficult to fast.
In general, losing weight by following a healthy, nutritious diet — such as the Mayo Clinic Diet — can reduce your risk of weight-related health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and sleep apnea. If you already have any of these conditions, they may be improved dramatically if you lose weight, regardless of the diet plan you follow.