Review of intermittent fasting research suggests broad health benefits

A newly published review article in The New England Journal Of Medicine has examined an array of current research on intermittent fasting, from animal studies to human clinical trials. The review clarifies different fasting regimes while also outlining a variety of health benefits the eating strategies can confer in humans.

Although intermittent fasting is currently a bit of a dietary trend, scientists have been investigating the effects of irregular caloric intakes in animals for several decades. Mark Mattson, an author on the new review and neuroscientist from Johns Hopkins University, explains one of the key processes triggered by intermittent fasting is called metabolic switching.

When an organism is starved of food it shifts how it produces energy, switching from readily accessible glucose in consumed food to a process called ketogenesis, whereby molecules called ketone bodies are produced though the conversion of fat stores.

This energy production shift is dubbed metabolic switching, and Mattson’s review article suggests frequent shifts between the two metabolic states can result in an array of health benefits.

“Periodic flipping of the metabolic switch not only provides the ketones that are necessary to fuel cells during the fasting period but also elicits highly orchestrated systemic and cellular responses that carry over into the fed state to bolster mental and physical performance, as well as disease resistance,” write Mattson and co-author Rafael de Cabo.