Can Intermittent Fasting Work For You?

Diet has been in the news after actress Jennifer Aniston said she follows it

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Traditionally, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but don’t tell actress Jennifer Aniston that.

According to numerous media outlets, the svelte star relies upon intermittent fasting to keep her figure trim — despite having turned 50 years old in 2019.

The eating plan as Aniston uses it involves eating nothing from 6 p.m. until 10 a.m., although she does drink beverages such as celery juice in the morning.

Danielle Meyer, clinical director of the dietetic internship program in the department of exercise and nutrition sciences from the School of Public Health and Health Professions at University at Buffalo, said that people naturally “fast” all night while sleeping and extending that period a few more hours likely isn’t harmful.

“There’s a lot of people who skip breakfast who are still pretty healthy,” she said. “Maybe they feel better because they restrict their caloric intake.”

While for many people eating less is better for their health, fasting 16 hours a day for life isn’t sustainable. The inability to make this a lasting habit concerns Meyer, since maintained weight loss should come from a lifestyle — not changing behavior, which leads to cycles of weight fluctuation.

Meyer added that there’s no magic in when one restricts calories; however, the timing can influence diet negatively.

“The pitfall is people are prone to unhealthful binges once they’re supposed to eat,” she said.

Indulging in nutrient-void, high calorie foods can negate any benefits gained from intermittent fasting.

Mary Jo Parker, registered dietitian and owner of Nutrition and Counseling Services in Buffalo, wants to see more research on intermittent fasting.

“Basically, what we know about the effectiveness of intermittent fasting is based primarily on data from animal studies,” Parker said. “The animal studies suggest there are metabolic shifts that can contribute to weight loss and improved health. There is a lot of controversy over whether human metabolism reacts similarly and if so, are the results generally applicable across large groups of people.”

She also questions whether any weight lost is because of not eating for 12 or more hours, or if it’s simply because people aren’t eating as much overall (providing they don’t overindulge once they do eat).

“Anecdotally, if people feel better, feel more in control of their eating, and their weight and health improve, it may be positive,” Parker said. “Right now it’s too soon to make sweeping statements about whether it’s good for people across the board. We need more good human studies with controlled trials.”

Photo: Jennifer Aniston