This diet has been promoted by celebrities, but it could be doing more harm than good

A popular method of intermittent fasting, promoted by celebrities and influencers, has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular death.
According to preliminary findings presented at an American Heart Association meeting, adults who followed a time-restricted eight-hour eating schedule had a 91% increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a type of eating plan structured around time restriction.
There are different formats of intermittent fasting, but they all involve having regular periods of eating and fasting.

Some follow the one-meal-a-day approach, which, as the name suggests, involves fasting for 23 hours and then consuming your daily calorie intake in a one-hour period.

The 16:8 fasting method involves fasting for 16 hours and only eating during an eight-hour window.
For example, someone following this method may only eat between 10 am and 6 pm and fast for the rest of the day.

Previous research has found that time-restricted eating improves several measures of cardiometabolic health, including blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels.

What are the risks of intermittent fasting?

In the new study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, researchers investigated the potential long-term health impacts of having an eating window of less than eight hours.
The researchers looked at 20,000 American adults and the participants were followed for an average duration of eight years and a maximum duration of 17 years.

The study found that those who ate all their food in less than eight hours a day had a 91% greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Among people with existing cardiovascular disease, the duration of eating between eight and 10 hours per day was also associated with a 66% greater risk of death from heart disease or stroke.
Time-restricted eating did not appear to reduce the risk of death from any cause.
“We were surprised to find that people who followed an eight-hour, time-restricted eating schedule were more likely to die from cardiovascular disease,” said study author Victor Wenze Zhong.

“Although this type of diet has been popular for its potential short-term benefits, our research clearly shows that, compared to a typical eating time interval of 12 to 16 hours a day, a shorter eating duration was not associated with longer life.”

Which celebrities have promoted intermittent fasting?

Friends star Jennifer Aniston is just one celebrity who has expressed her love for intermittent fasting, especially the 16:8 diet.
The 55-year-old revealed in 2019 that she skips breakfast and only consumes liquids, such as celery juice or coffee, in the morning.
“I noticed a huge difference when I went without solid food for 16 hours,” he told Radio Times in 2019.

Other famous faces who have tried intermittent fasting methods, either as an ongoing or short-term practice, include Hugh Jackman, Chris Hemsworth, Kourtney Kardashian, Halle Berry, Chris Martin and Heidi Klum.

Jennifer Aniston is a fan of intermittent fasting. Source: AAP / Allison’s Dinner/EPA

What do experts say about the new findings?

The study authors acknowledged the limitations of their research, namely its reliance on self-reported dietary information, which they said could be affected by participants’ memories and may not accurately assess their eating patterns typical
Other factors that could play a role in a person’s health, outside of the hours they eat each day and their cause of death, were not included in the analysis, they added.

“Overall, this study suggests that time-restricted eating may have short-term benefits, but long-term adverse effects,” said Christopher Gardner, director of nutrition studies at Stanford University.

Gardner said it would be “interesting and helpful” to learn more about the details of the research once it is fully presented, particularly the nutrient quality of the study participants’ diets.
“Without this information, it cannot be determined whether nutrient density could be an alternative explanation for the findings that currently focus on the time window to eat,” he said.
Seeing a comparison of baseline and demographic characteristics between different groups would also be “critical,” he added.
“For example, the group with the shortest time-restricted eating window was unique compared to people following other eating schedules, in terms of weight, stress, traditional cardiometabolic risk factors, or other factors associated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes?” he said

“This additional information will help to better understand the possible independent contribution of the short-time restricted feeding pattern reported in this interesting and provocative abstract.”

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