Fasting Diets, Gaining Acceptance
By: Kathryn Maggio
Summary of Article
“Fasting Diets are Gaining Acceptance” was written by Anahad O’Connor for the Health and Wellness Blog of The New York Times website, dated March 7, 2016. Intermittent fasting is gaining attention and scientific support as a means to lose weight and boost health. Three diets were discussed, including alternate day fasting, eat 5 days/ fast 2 days (5:2 plan) and time restricted eating. Studies indicate that fasting reduces the biomarkers for diabetes, cancer and heart disease. It lowers insulin, and insulin like hormones, slowing cell growth and development, and thus slowing aging. Other studies show that in mice, fasting increases the proteins that protect brain cells, protecting the mice from strokes, Alzheimers and Parkinson’s disease. Critics say that most of the evidence supporting fasting comes from animal research, and that the long term effectiveness of fasting has not been well studied. Further many find the diet too difficult and quickly stop. It takes a disciplined person to skip meals.
Critique of Article
This article appeared in the Health and Wellness blog sponsored by a highly regarded newspaper: The New York Times. In addition to writing for the blog, the author, Anahad O’Connor, has been a respected science and health columnist for the Times since 2003. He is the author of 2 popular books about weight loss, including Lose it! The Personalized Weight Loss Revolution and The 10 Things You Need to Eat: And More Than 100 Easy and Delicious Ways to Prepare Them. He holds a degree from Yale in Psychology with a focus on neuroscience and child studies. The article is well written, using wording that is easy for non scientific readers to understand. The information O’Connor presented was based on scientific evidence, and the experts quoted had relevant credentials. He gave both sides of the arguments a chance, although a preponderance of the research presented advocated intermittent fasting. Further, there was limited discussion on how effective fasting is as a means of weight loss; only one study with 107 subjects was described. I also would have liked some specifics about the diets consumed in these studies- for instance, does it make a difference about what subjects ate or how many calories they consumed in non fast times. I think a danger might be that a person might consume way too many calories because they know they are not going to be able to eat the next day. All in all, however, O’Connor presented a balanced, unbiased analysis of the available scientific research on the pros and cons of intermittent fasting, keeping the facts straight and not jumping to any wild or unsupported speculation.