Intermittent fasting is not good for your cardiovascular health: Study

A new study has raised concerns about the long-term effects of time-restricted eating, a popular form of intermittent fasting, particularly its association with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease mortality. Presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention | Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Scientific Sessions 2024 in Chicago, this preliminary research challenges the notion that such dietary patterns are universally beneficial for heart health.

Time-restricted eating, which limits food intake to a specific number of hours each day—often in an 8-hour window with a 16-hour fast—has been lauded for its potential to improve various cardiometabolic health metrics, including blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol levels. However, the study led by Dr. Victor Wenze Zhong of Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, delves into the possible long-term consequences of adhering to this diet, especially in relation to cardiovascular health.

Analyzing data from over 20,000 U.S. adults gathered through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) from 2003 to 2018, and correlating these with mortality data up to 2019 from the CDC’s National Death Index, the researchers discovered that individuals adhering to a time-restricted eating plan of less than 8 hours per day faced a 91% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. This risk was also noted among those with pre-existing heart conditions or cancer. Surprisingly, extending the eating duration to more than 16 hours seemed to lower the risk of cancer mortality among cancer patients.

These findings prompt a reevaluation of time-restricted eating, especially for those with underlying health issues. Dr. Zhong emphasizes the need for a personalized approach to dietary recommendations, cautioning against a one-size-fits-all mindset. He points out that while the study establishes an association, it does not prove causation between time-restricted eating and cardiovascular mortality.

The study, however, is not without its limitations, including reliance on self-reported dietary data, which could introduce recall bias. Furthermore, it did not account for other health-influencing factors outside of eating duration and cause of death.

Experts like Dr. Christopher D. Gardner from Stanford University highlight the necessity of further research, particularly in understanding the biological mechanisms at play and how these findings translate globally. Additionally, there\’s a call for examining the nutrient quality of diets within different eating time windows to fully grasp the implications of time-restricted eating on long-term health.

In light of these findings, the scientific community awaits more detailed analysis and peer-reviewed publications to better understand the intricate relationship between dietary patterns and cardiovascular health.

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