Every year, many attempt the tradition of New Year’s resolutions but then fail to maintain changes 3 weeks into January. One of the most popular resolutions is weight loss. New gym memberships skyrocket at the beginning of each year, but gym attendance soon returns to normal. Diets that begin on January 1st are often abandoned before February.
While patients are focused on weight loss, this can provide the perfect opportunity to educate further on the role of weight and metabolic dysfunction as risk factors for future health issues. Hormone testing can be a perfect pairing to obtain objective insight into these metabolic issues. Specifically, elevated androgens in women and decreased testosterone in men are linked to metabolic dysregulation. Developing new lifestyle habits – behavior change – (often the very core of functional medicine treatment and of New Year’s resolutions) is hard. This is why it’s imperative to choose the right method to reach health goals.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to have the same beneficial effects as caloric restriction on weight, lipids, blood pressure, blood sugar, and may be an easier practice to maintain. Intermittent fasting not only improves insulin sensitivity more effectively than calorie restriction, but it can also be more effective at slimming the waistline.
There are numerous approaches to intermittent fasting. These are a few methods that have shown favorable effects on markers of metabolic syndrome:
Alternate Day Fasting: One of the most commonly studied methods of intermittent fasting is alternate day fasting (ADF). This method has been shown to reduce weight, body fat, total cholesterol and triglycerides. ADF involves alternating a day of unrestricted eating with a day of eating about 25% of normal caloric needs. A similar option is a fast of 500 calories in a day 2 times per week. Caloric needs vary based on gender, age, weight, height, and physical activity level. For example, a 45-year old female who weighs 160 lb and participates in light physical activity might need about 2200 calories per day to maintain weight. On fasting days she would then eat around 550 calories.
24-hour Fasts: These might be done once or twice per week. Fasting for a whole day is likely one of the most difficult ways to approach fasting. Trials on this method have shown the same benefits as ADF.
Time-Restricted Feeding: A third popular strategy involves an 8-hour feeding period followed by a 16-hour fast every day of the week. An individual on this type of feeding schedule might skip breakfast and eat all meals between noon and 8pm. Human research on this type fasting is limited at this time. Restricting rats to a 10-hour feeding period protected them from weight gain and metabolic diseases. A pilot study of 23 obese human subjects found that eating only between 10am and 6pm resulted in weight loss and reduced blood pressure.
Catch the early warning signs of metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance in your patients. Order a Comprehensive Hormone Profile and watch out for increased androgens in women or decreased androgens in men. For patients looking to meet health goals in the new year, including weight loss and/or metabolic function improvement, consider sharing with them the research on intermittent fasting.