A-list celebrities such as Kourtney Kardashian, Jennifer Aniston, Mark Wahlberg, and Hugh Jackman have been known to advocate intermittent fasting, as it apparently helps these celebs to detox their body and lose weight.
However, a study has found that this popular and promoted dieting technique may raise the risk of an early death, the Daily Mail reports.
Intermittent fasting includes switching between days of fasting and eating routinely. It means skipping meals entirely or eating within a strict time window – a diet tool that became extremely popular in the early 2010s.
A study of 24,000 Americans over the age of 40 discovered that those who ate one meal a day were reportedly 30% more likely to die from any cause in 15 years than those who ate three meals a day.
In the recent study, a higher risk of dying from heart disease was reportedly linked to skipping breakfast while missing lunch or breakfast appeared to increase the chance of all-cause mortality.
The researchers claim that these results were the same even if people ate healthy foods, exercised, rarely drank alcohol, or smoked.
Researchers are of the opinion that those who practice intermittent fasting (IF) tend to eat a large amount of food all at once – which may over time, damage the body’s cells.
However, the experts reportedly caution that it is still too early to know for certain if fasting has a role to play in the premature deaths as other lifestyle and genetic factors cannot be ruled out.
Ironically, the followers of this eating pattern cite longevity as one of its main benefits as it had earlier been linked to reduce the risk of multiple diseases.
Researchers from the University of Tennessee who conducted the latest study have discovered that three meals a day is optimal for a longer life.
However, the study also found that an increased risk of early death was also linked to eating meals too close together – the team believes eating large quantities of food, too fast puts metabolic strain on the body.
Professor Yangbo Sun, lead author of the new study from the University of Tennessee, is reported to have said, ‘At a time when intermittent fasting is widely touted as a solution for weight loss, metabolic health, and disease prevention, our study is important for the large segment of American adults who eat fewer than three meals each day.
‘Our research revealed that individuals eating only one meal a day are more likely to die than those who had more daily meals.
‘Among them, participants who skip breakfast are more likely to develop fatal cardiovascular diseases, while those who skip lunch or dinner increase their risk of death from all causes.’
She added: ‘Based on these findings, we recommend eating at least two to three meals spread throughout the day.’
Forty per cent of the latest study participants reportedly ate fewer than three meals a day, on average.
Also, these people were already participants in a national survey between 1999 to 2014 which recorded their answers about their diet, disease, general health, and behaviors every two years.
Their answers were linked to the participants’ medical records. It was found that by the end of the study, overall, there were 4,175 deaths including 878 caused by heart problems.
Compared with those who reportedly ate three meals a day, eating just one meal was linked to a 30% increased risk of all-cause mortality and 83% increased risk of death due to heart disease.
Researchers found that those who missed breakfast were at a 40% increased risk of heart disease death in comparison to those who did not. However, there was reportedly no difference in all-cause mortality.
It was also discovered that those who skipped lunch or dinner were 12 to 16 per cent more likely to die for any reason.
Meanwhile, those participants who consumed three meals a day but maintained a gap of fewer than four-and-a-half hours between at least two of those meals were found to have a 17% increased risk of all-cause mortality, in contrast to those who spaced out their meals by five or more hours.
Senior study author and epidemiologist at the University of Iowa, Dr Wei Bao reportedly said, ‘Our results are significant even after adjustments for dietary and lifestyle factors (smoking, alcohol use, physical activity levels, energy intake, and diet quality) and food insecurity.
‘Our findings are based on observations drawn from public data and do not imply causality. Nonetheless, what we observed makes metabolic sense.’
Dr Bao explains that missing meals usually means consuming a larger energy load at one time – which could aggravate the burden of glucose metabolism regulation, leading to subsequent metabolic deterioration.
This can also clarify the link between a shorter meal gap and mortality, as a briefer time gap between meals would cause a larger energy load in the given period.
Dr Bao adds, ‘Our research contributes much-needed evidence about the association between eating behaviors and mortality in the context of meal timing and duration of the daily prandial period.’