Intermittent fasting research shows health benefits


Haley Brand

Texas State students Annabelle Nichols, Carol Gebhart, and Daisy Moore eating dinner Friday, Feb. 21, 2020 at Jones Dining Hall on campus.

Antonia Rainey, News Reporter

Texas State professor and graduate students collaborated with Mississippi State University students to research the effects of intermittent fasting, finding several health benefits.

New research of intermittent fasting in college-aged men, ranging from 18-25 years old, displays various health benefits such as lower blood pressure and body fat, good cholesterol increase and an increase in adiponectin—a protein hormone that conserves fat to energy.

Exercise and sports science assistant professor Matt McAllister, co-author of the intermittent fasting research, said he was inspired by various institutional studies of rodents being placed on an intermittent fasting diet. In prior practice, he noted improvement in the rodents’ muscle mass and body fat percentages and was curious if these same beneficial effects would show in fasting humans.

“I think we need more human trials and we need to be clear if those findings are due to a reduction in caloric intake or if those findings are due to changing the timing of food intake throughout the day,” McAllister said.

McAllister, along with the help of his graduate research assistant Liliana Renteria and his two colleagues, Hunter Waldman and Brandon Pigg of the Department of Kinesiology at MSU, studied the effects of time-restricted fasting on college-aged men.

The study among college-aged men, who were recruited by word of mouth and flyers on campus at MSU, started August 2018 with 22 men. All participants had to follow a 16-to-8 fasting protocol—16 hours for fasting and an 8-hour window for eating for 28 days.

Participants were also split into two groups. Group 1 was able to eat as much as they wanted during the 8-hour window while Group 2 had to manage their daily calorie intake and stay within a certain range.

Renteria said the purpose of the study was to see if the benefits of fasting came from caloric or timing restrictions.

“We compared (the two groups) to see if you eat fewer calories or if you keep it the same, will you still get healthier? We found that both groups got healthier just from doing fasting in four weeks,” Renteria said.

The results of the study showed several improvements to participants’ health, including improved blood pressure, decreased body fat and improved blood lipids.

Inflammatory markers improved as well, including adiponectin, an inflammatory that helps turn fat into energy. Benefits were found to be caused by shortening the window of time to eat rather than how much or what one ate. No loss of muscle mass was reported.

McAllister said potential intermittent fasting beginners should begin fasting at a smaller window of time and to fast later in the day.

“Start with a 14-hour fast first, a 16-hour fast might not be as easy to stick with. Start with a 14-to-12 hour first and then work your way up,” McAllister said. “Also, it appears that it is better to fast later in the day and consume your calories earlier in the day. So instead of skipping breakfast, it’s probably more beneficial to eat early.”

Renteria said the intermittent fasting diet is on an individual to individual basis, meaning it might not fit for everyone who tries it.

“There’s not a specific diet that will help everybody, so just because fasting might help some people, it might not help others,” Renteria said. “Getting healthier is about figuring out what works for you and what you can stick with for a long time versus just what you see in the media. Figure something out that you can stick with and that’ll make you feel healthier.”

McAllister and Renteria said the study showed little to no drawbacks from participants during the fasting study except for the usual hunger during the non-eating period.

Ke’Aisha Brown, animal science junior, said fasting seems hard but can be rewarding for those who are dedicated.

“Fasting can be healthy, but of course with moderation. I think it takes a lot of self-control to only allow yourself to eat once and then not to eat for the rest of the day. If it’s helping you, then I think it is something to try,” Brown said.

Updates on the research and more of McAllister and the MAP Lab’s studies can be found on the official MAP Lab twitter page

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