You may have heard people talking about the health benefits of Intermittent Fasting (IF). Any diet that includes the word “fasting” probably sounds a little extreme for most people. But you might not want to dismiss the idea too quickly. Research suggests that IF may offer significant benefits for elderly people, especially those struggling with obesity. Here’s what seniors living in New York should know about this unusual eating plan.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Although many people turn to IF in hopes of losing weight, it isn’t a diet. Rather than prescribing a certain number of calories or specific foods, the focus is on when you eat and when you don’t. The theory is that restricting the time you eat to a certain window and fasting the rest of the time helps your body function better. People are encouraged to eat normally when they aren’t fasting.
According to Senior Outlook Today, there are a few different approaches to IF.
- 16/8 Method – This method is probably the most common form of IF. In this plan, people restrict their eating window to eight hours a day, fasting for the remaining 16. Keep in mind, the time spent sleeping counts as fasting. So someone might eat breakfast at 8:00 a.m. and finish their last meal by 4:00 p.m.
- 5/2 Diet – For five days out of the week, you eat your normal diet. On two non-consecutive days, restrict calorie intake. Women can have about 500 calories, and men can have about 600.
- Alternate Day Fasting – Switch back and forth between one day of normal eating and one day of fasting. On fasting days, you can skip food entirely or severely restrict food, only having about 200 calories for the whole day.
- The Warrior Diet – This extreme protocol requires fasting for 20 hours every day, only eating during a four-hour window.
Could Intermittent Fasting Benefit Elderly People?
This eating approach might seem a little intense for older people, and it certainly isn’t for everyone. However, there is research that suggests IF may offer benefits that make it worth the effort.
One study looked at the effects of IF on elderly people with mild cognitive impairment. It showed that a higher percentage of subjects who regularly practiced IF for three years showed significant improvements in several markers of health. They reduced their weight, improved fasting glucose levels, improved insulin levels, and had multiple markers of reduced inflammation.
Perhaps most enticingly, participants who regularly followed an IF style of eating showed better cognitive function after 36 months.
Some Things To Consider
If this kind of eating plan sounds like something you’d like to try, there are a few things you should keep in mind before you jump in with both feet.
- Talk to your doctor. This is always good advice when starting a new eating plan, but especially true when it’s as big a change as this.
- Avoid drastic IF plans. Skipping meals for an entire day or severely restricting calories may be too stressful for your body. The 16/8 Method is probably the most reasonable choice for most people.
- Ease into it slowly. Gradually reduce your eating window, instead of diving into a 16-hour fast right away. Pay attention to how it feels as you fast for longer periods of time, and don’t push yourself too hard.
- Optimize nutrition when you eat. Not getting enough calories and nutrients can be a problem even among elderly people who aren’t fasting. If you’re restricting the time during which you eat, that makes it even more important to focus on nutrient-rich foods when you can.
Who Should Avoid IF?
As mentioned before, this eating style isn’t for everyone. Some people should avoid IF, including:
- People with a history of eating disorders. Restrictive diets can lead to a relapse of disordered eating.
- Those who are underweight. Losing too much weight can be dangerous, especially for elderly people.
- People with poorly controlled blood sugar. Diabetics or people with hypoglycemia can run into dangerous problems with blood sugar levels.
- People who need to take medication with food during fasting times. Skipping or delaying doses of medication can be dangerous.
It bears repeating: talk to your doctor first! If you’re interested in modifying your diet, a nutritionist can work with you to meet your goals in a healthy and sustainable way.
David York Agency Home Healthcare Helps Seniors in New York
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