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Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - ART & MUSIC - DO A CLEAR-OUT

Ban­ish all thoughts of a Lough Derg-type star­va­tion diet. In­ter­mit­tent fast­ing is no more dras­tic than de­lay­ing or skip­ping break­fast al­to­gether. “One form of in­ter­mit­tent fast­ing is ‘time-re­stricted eat­ing’, which essen­tially in­volves eat­ing within a rel­a­tively con­tained win­dow each day,” ex­plains Dr John Briffa. “So if you were to eat break­fast at 8am, you’d be fin­ished by eight in the even­ing. The rest of the time all that is be­ing con­sumed is water and per­haps some black cof­fee or tea. Some peo­ple then grad­u­ally ex­tend the fast to 14 or 16 hours, usu­ally by de­lay­ing break­fast or skip­ping it al­to­gether.”

For those pack­ing chil­dren off to school or rush­ing to get out them­selves in the morn­ing, it has other ben­e­fits. “On a prac­ti­cal point, skip­ping break­fast is of­ten not so­cially dis­rup­tive as many in­di­vid­u­als eat break­fast on their own, cer­tainly dur­ing the week.”

Why is in­ter­mit­tent fast­ing help­ful? “It ul­ti­mately stim­u­lates the body to break down fat which forms a fuel source called ke­tones,” says Briffa. “This is the ori­gin of the word ‘ ke­to­sis’. Ke­tones pro­vide ready fuel for the body and brain. But the level of ke­tones in so-called ‘nutritional ke­to­sis’ is much lower than those seen in what is known as ‘ ke­toaci­do­sis’, which oc­curs in un­con­trolled Type 1 di­a­betes.

It ap­pears to bring body-wide ad­van­tages. “In­ter­mit­tent fast­ing has other ben­e­fits too like im­prov­ing in­sulin func­tion and increasing ‘au­tophagy’ which is like an in­ter­nal clean-up process, in­clud­ing in the brain.

“Clin­i­cally it tends to works like a charm,” says Dr Briffa. “Not ev­ery­one can do it but the ma­jor­ity can, and when they do they usu­ally feel en­er­gised, stable and ‘with it’. The re­al­ity is while it’s usu­ally said that ‘ break­fast is the most im­por­tant meal of the day’, this is ac­tu­ally non­sense for many peo­ple. There is noth­ing wrong with some­one sub­sist­ing off their own fat stores through the morn­ing. In fact, it’s a good state to be in. Peo­ple gen­er­ally do much bet­ter this way than with a tra­di­tional break­fast of ce­real or toast which can desta­bilise blood sugar lev­els and tends to be in­flam­ma­tory in na­ture.”

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