Looking at the Science behind Intermittent Fasting 
November 2, 2022

by Liz Reid

So, we’ve said goodbye to British Summertime this year, as the clocks have gone back. The longer nights do affect our circadian rhythms, which are physical, mental and behavioural which follow a 24 hour clock. These biological processes of all living things can take a few weeks to adjust our body clock to the ‘new daylight time’.

Within our gut, we also have our own microbiome ‘world’ that have their own circadian rhythms too. A microbiome is a community of microorganisms that exist on or in a particular environment, such as on our skin or in the gut. The gut microbiome reacts to when you eat and feed off your food and residues and when you stop eating, the next shift of microbes get busy in the big clean up and restore the gut ready for when you’re ready to break your fast again.

Evidence continues to be compiled from scientific and medical studies, which focus on intermittent fasting, showing that it may appear to be beneficial to your health in allowing your gut time to rest. During our sleeping hours, we fast from between 6-8 hours, which gives our gut time to reset. There is also evidence to show that people have reported improvements in their long-term health, including better cholesterol levels, heart health and improved blood sugar levels, as well as weight loss.

So, what is intermittent fasting? Is it starving yourself? Well, no. We all naturally fast when we’re asleep, hence why breakfast is called breakfast… break fast…breaking the fast. Intermittent fasting is eating normally and not denying yourself anything during a certain time period of perhaps 8-10 hours but then choosing to not ingest food for a certain additional period during your waking hours and drinking only water, black tea, black coffee or green tea, avoiding adding milk of any kind, and also not adding any sugar. You choose when your eating window starts, to suit you and your work commitments or just simply what works best for you and your body. Some people choose to close their eating window after their main evening meal and then not eat anything until the next morning or lunchtime. This is something which needs to be introduced slowly, so your body has time to adjust. It is important to make sure you eat though, if you experience dizziness or feel hungry. Listen to your body. 

Some may believe it is not possible to try intermittent fasting because they get ‘hangry’, experiencing irritability, hunger pains and being emotional. Feeling ‘hangry’ can be because you’ve eaten food which is too processed and it’s your body reacting to that! 

ZOE is a health science company which works in partnership with doctors and scientists at King’s College London. The ZOE Health Study was created by them and they have recently launched a unique new study, called The Big IF Study, to learn if intermittent fasting works for you and so that you can contribute to community science. It aims to be the largest research study on this topic in the world so far! You can contribute by downloading the ZOE Health Study App, registering and logging 2 minutes daily for 3 weeks or more, to help the medical and scientific experts at ZOE discover if eating during a fixed time period of a 10 hour window can actually change your mood, energy levels and more! Scientists are increasingly seeing links between meal timing and health. They have seen that when your body is fasting, your body can swap from using sugar to using fat for energy, that your cells can improve their resistance to stress and disease and that the beneficial bacteria in your gut may increase in numbers. 

The thing to remember is to be kind to yourself and that intermittent fasting is not about starving yourself! If you want to undertake a new diet or try intermittent fasting, then as always, do check with your doctor. 

For more information visit www.joinzoe.com or download the Zoe Health Study App. (Source: Zoe Health Study) Elizabeth