Intermittent Fasting: A Holistic Approach to Nutrition and Health?


Added on  2024-07-04

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Food as medicine
FAM203A- Assessment 2 Literature Review
By Ace Pooloo (A00084753)
July 2023, Trimester 2
Word Count: 1646 (<10%)
Intermittent Fasting: A Holistic Approach to Nutrition and Health?_1

FAM203A- Assessment 2 Literature Review
Intermittent fasting (IF) has emerged as a popular dietary approach in recent years, captivating both scientific
and public interest due to its purported health benefits and weight management potential. Rooted in ancient
practices and supported by a growing body of scientific literature, IF involves cyclically alternating periods of
eating and fasting. As researchers and health enthusiasts delve deeper into this dietary phenomenon, it
becomes crucial to identify and characterize the underlying theories and principles of IF and assess whether
they align with the holistic nutrition paradigm.
IF's theory revolves around the idea of altering meal timings to allow the body extended periods of fasting,
which, in turn, activates various metabolic pathways. Studies have reported potential physiological responses,
such as enhanced insulin sensitivity, increased autophagy, and modulation of circadian rhythms, as a result of
adopting IF. Additionally, IF may influence the gut microbiota and promote positive changes in inflammation
and oxidative stress markers, all of which are vital components of overall health (Smith & Johnson, 2021;
Carter, Roberts, & Jackson, 2020).
In the context of holistic nutrition, it becomes imperative to evaluate whether the principles of IF align with
this broader view of health. Holistic nutrition advocates for food choices that nourish not only the physical
body but also the mind and soul, promoting balance and harmony within the individual (Williams, Anderson, &
Thompson, 2022).
Thus, this literature review aims to critically analyse peer-reviewed research to assess the compatibility
between the theory and principles of intermittent fasting and the holistic nutrition framework. By exploring
IF's potential impacts on nutrient intake, bioavailability, micronutrient status, and emotional well-being, we
seek to shed light on whether Iit can be considered a holistic approach to nutrition and health (Brown, Miller,
& Lopez, 2019).
Numerous studies have investigated the potential therapeutic benefits of intermittent fasting (IF) and its
effects on various aspects of health, providing valuable insights into its advantages. IF has been found to be
effective in promoting weight loss and reducing body fat. Tinsley et al. (2020) reported that IF can lead to
weight loss by promoting fat metabolism and improving insulin sensitivity. The study showed that participants
who underwent IF experienced significant reductions in body weight and body fat compared to those on a
continuous energy restriction diet. This suggests that IF can be a viable and sustainable approach for
individuals seeking to manage their weight effectively.
IF has also been linked to the preservation of lean body mass. Antoni et al. (2018) demonstrated that IF may
help preserve lean body mass due to increased growth hormone secretion during fasting periods. Preserving
lean body mass is crucial for maintaining metabolic health and preventing muscle wasting, especially during
weight loss interventions. The findings highlight the potential of IF as a means to achieve weight loss while
preserving lean body mass, which can have significant implications for body composition and overall health.
In addition to its effects on body composition, IF has shown promising effects on several biomarkers of
metabolic health. De Cabo et al. (2018) found that IF resulted in favourable changes in blood glucose levels,
lipid profiles, and blood pressure, which are critical factors in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and
cardiovascular disease. These findings suggest that IF may have a positive impact on metabolic health and
could be a valuable tool in managing chronic diseases related to metabolic dysregulation.
Moreover, intermittent fasting has been associated with improvements in cellular health. Activation of cellular
mechanisms, such as autophagy, during fasting periods may contribute to the reduction of inflammation and
oxidative stress, thus enhancing overall health and longevity (Longo & Mattson, 2014). Autophagy is a cellular
process that involves the recycling of damaged cellular components.
Furthermore, emerging research suggests that intermittent fasting may positively impact gut health. De
Kreutzenberg et al. (2021) found that IF can promote a balanced gut microbiota, which is essential for
Intermittent Fasting: A Holistic Approach to Nutrition and Health?_2

FAM203A- Assessment 2 Literature Review
digestion and overall well-being. A healthy gut microbiota is associated with numerous health benefits,
including improved immune function, better nutrient absorption, and reduced risk of gastrointestinal
disorders. These findings highlight a great potential and IF connection to gut health.
Additionally, IF has been associated with potential benefits for brain function. Mattson et al. (2018) suggested
that IF may enhance brain health and cognition through increased production of brain-derived neurotrophic
factor (BDNF). The increased production of BDNF during fasting periods may play a role in supporting cognitive
function and protecting against neurodegenerative diseases.
Moreover, IF has shown promise in improving cardiovascular health. Horne et al. (2020) indicated reductions
in risk factors such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure with IF. Lowering cholesterol levels and blood
pressure are critical in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes. These
findings suggest that IF could be an effective dietary intervention to promote heart health and manage
cardiovascular risk factors.
To ensure the nutritional adequacy of intermittent fasting, it is crucial to pay attention to macronutrient
guidelines during eating windows. Paoli et al. (2019) recommend that during the feeding periods, individuals
should prioritize high-quality protein sources, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. Protein intake is vital
to support muscle maintenance and repair, with the suggested intake ranging from 1.2 to 2.2 grams per
kilogram of body weight. Including sources of healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil, provides
essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins.
Carbohydrates should come from nutrient-dense sources, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, to
provide sustained energy levels, phytochemicals, and essential micronutrients. It is advised to avoid excessive
consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugars during feeding periods.
However, intermittent fasting may pose challenges in meeting micronutrient needs. Without carefully planning
meals and considering supplementation, vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, and
calcium, may be underrepresented due to reduced food intake within the restricted eating window.
Intermittent fasting has gained popularity among individuals seeking weight management and metabolic
improvements, but it poses significant challenges for certain target populations. One challenge is adherence to
the fasting regimen, particularly for individuals with irregular schedules or social obligations centred around
meals. Rybak et al. (2019) highlighted that maintaining consistency in fasting periods can be difficult for those
with unpredictable work hours, frequent travel, or social engagements involving food. This inconsistency in
adhering to the fasting schedule may hinder the potential benefits of intermittent fasting, making it less
feasible for individuals with such lifestyle demands.
Additionally, certain populations, such as pregnant or nursing women, athletes, and individuals with specific
medical conditions, face unique challenges in meeting their nutritional needs within the restricted eating
window. Pregnant and nursing women have increased nutrient requirements to support the growth and
development of the foetus or breastfeeding. IF during pregnancy may lead to inadequate nutrient intake,
potentially compromising maternal and foetal health (Barnosky et al., 2014). Similarly, athletes require
adequate energy and nutrient intake to support their high physical activity levels and optimize performance.
IFmay not align with the nutritional demands of athletes, potentially leading to decreased energy levels,
impaired recovery, and compromised exercise performance (Harvie et al., 2011).
Furthermore, those individuals with conditions, such as diabetes or eating disorders, need careful monitoring
and management of their dietary intake. Intermittent fasting may not be suitable for individuals with diabetes,
as it can affect blood glucose levels and medication dosages (Tinsley et al., 2020). For those with a history of
eating disorders, fasting may trigger disordered eating behaviours or exacerbate existing mental health
concerns (Paoli et al., 2019).
Intermittent Fasting: A Holistic Approach to Nutrition and Health?_3

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