Study Suggests Intermittent Fasting May Increase Risk of Heart Disease Mortality

A study presented at a medical meeting has cast doubt on the safety of intermittent fasting, a popular weight loss strategy that restricts food intake to specific periods. The research, released in Chicago and published by the American Heart Association (AHA), revealed a surprising finding – limiting mealtimes to just eight hours a day was associated with a 91% increase in the risk of death from heart disease.

The study, reviewed by experts before its release, analyzed data from approximately 20,000 adults included in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Researchers, led by Victor Zhong of the Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, examined questionnaires and death records from 2003 to 2019. However, since the data partly relied on patients’ recollections of their diet over two days, potential inaccuracies may exist.

The fasting group, compared to those consuming food over a daily period of 12 to 16 hours, comprised mainly of younger men with a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) and food insecurity. Interestingly, they also reported lower rates of hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Despite adjusting for these variables, the positive association between 8-hour time-restricted eating and cardiovascular mortality persisted.

The study’s findings have sparked discussions among experts, with some raising questions about the methodology and potential biases. Keith Frayn, emeritus professor of human metabolism at the University of Oxford, emphasized the importance of long-term studies to comprehensively assess the effects of intermittent fasting. Frayn highlighted that while time-restricted eating is popular for calorie reduction, unanswered questions remain regarding its impact on health outcomes.

The abstract published by the AHA leaves room for speculation, prompting calls for further research to elucidate the nuances of intermittent fasting’s effects on cardiovascular health. Concerns about the duration of fasting among participants and the potential confounding factors in the analysis underscore the need for robust scientific inquiry into this dietary practice.

As the debate continues, the study serves as a reminder of the complexities surrounding dietary interventions and their implications for overall health. While intermittent fasting has gained traction as a weight loss strategy, its potential risks, particularly about heart health, warrant careful consideration and further investigation.

(With inputs from agencies)

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