Intermittent fasting, also known as time-restricted eating, is the pattern of eating within a consistent window of 8 to 10 hours each day. It has been found to be beneficial for losing weight and improving health. The latest study published in Endocrine Reviews has found that when eating was restricted to fewer than 12 hours per day, sleep and quality of life improved while the risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes decreased.
To understand why intermittent fasting works it is important to know that you have an internal 24-hour body clock known as your circadian rhythm. Biological processed related to metabolism, genes, and hormones change throughout the day. In the morning, daylight and food cause insulin sensitivity to increase and melatonin to decrease, so that you feel more alert and energetic. In the evening, your melatonin levels go up and insulin sensitivity decreases, and your body prepares for rest and cell repair.
Your digestive system is programmed from the time you’re born to eat during the day and rest at night. If you eat at night, it forces your body to continue producing insulin during hours that it doesn’t need much sugar for energy, so more sugar ends up getting stored as fat and your risk of obesity and diabetes increases. On the other hand, not eating at night gives your pancreas a break and your metabolism improves. According to Dr. Satchidananda Panda, one of the authors of the Endocrine Reviews study, “eating at random times breaks the synchrony of our internal program and makes us prone to diseases. Intermittent fasting is a lifestyle that anyone can adopt. It can help eliminate health disparities and lets everyone live a healthy and fulfilling life.”
It’s not just what you eat that is important, but also when you eat. Intermittent fasting is not just a random diet but is instead a pattern of eating that is in sync with your circadian rhythm to allow your body to function optimally.