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Apr 08, 2024

In the ever-changing world of dietary trends, intermittent fasting has become very popular. While intermittent fasting has been a part of human culture for thousands of years, practised by people of the Muslim faith all over the world during the month of Ramadan, the idea of making it the new normal for eating the year round has piqued the interest of health enthusiasts and researchers alike.

From the popular 16:8 method to the more rigorous 23:1 split, intermittent fasting offers a novel approach to eating that challenges conventional thinking.

But amid the buzz, one question lingers: Is intermittent fasting year-round merely a fleeting trend, or could it truly be the right way for people to eat? Also, what are the potential risks of intermittent fasting?

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is simply alternating periods of eating and fasting, where the time in which you fast is longer than the time in which you eat. One of the most popular intermittent fasting methods is the 16:8 split, where you adhere to a daily 16-hour fasting window with an 8-hour eating period. The most intense intermittent fast is the 23:1 split, with a stringent 23-hour fast followed by a one-hour eating window.

At its core, intermittent fasting operates on the premise that by restricting the time window for eating, you can reduce inflammation, reduce stress on your digestive system and, if you choose, go into a calorie deficit if you need to achieve a healthy body mass index (BMI).

The benefits of intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting can have a positive effect on your metabolic health and improve insulin sensitivity in people with insulin resistance, while possibly mitigating the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

However, the true allure of intermittent fasting is weight management. By reducing eating time to a smaller window, you naturally consume fewer calories. This results in weight loss and the reduction of adipose tissue (body fat).

In an article published by Johns Hopkins Medicine, Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Mark Mattson, who has studied intermittent fasting for 25 years, says: “… our bodies have evolved to be able to go without food for many hours, or even several days or longer. In prehistoric times, before humans learned to farm, they were hunters and gatherers who evolved to survive — and thrive — for long periods without eating.”

The article also notes that: “Extra calories and less activity can mean a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses. Scientific studies are showing that intermittent fasting may help reverse these trends.”

When you are fasting, your body goes into a process called autophagy, a cellular recycling mechanism, where you remove damaged cellular components in your body, promoting overall cellular health. Additionally, intermittent fasting triggers the production of ketone bodies, alternative fuel sources derived from fatty acids, which confer neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects.

Why is intermittent fasting so difficult?

Intermittent fasting is not without its challenges. Prolonged fasting requires discipline and perseverance. You will have to deal with hunger pangs and possibly even pressure from friends, family or colleagues to join them for a meal during your fasting times.

The risks of intermittent fasting

Like anything in life, intermittent fasting is not without its risks. In an article by Harvard Health Publishing, metabolic expert Dr Deborah Wexler Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Diabetes Center and associate professor at Harvard Medical School, says "there is evidence to suggest that the circadian rhythm fasting approach, where meals are restricted to an eight to 10-hour period of the daytime, is effective."

However, she still cautions people to stick to an eating plan that is sustainable to them.

The article also notes that people with advanced diabetes or who are on medication to treat their diabetes, people with a history of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, and pregnant or breastfeeding women should not do any intermittent fasting unless approved by and under close supervision of a physician.

A recent study of over 20 000 adults who followed an eight-hour time-restricted eating schedule, presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Scientific Sessions 2024, “had a 91% higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease.”

This study, however, has come under severe scrutiny from other researchers and journalists for the research methodology used, so whether the results are accurate is still under debate.

A healthy change – The Tempo Nutrition Journey

If you are looking to make a change to your diet or are considering intermittent fasting, the best place to start is with the Tempo wellness programme. You can start your Tempo Nutrition Journey today. You’ll get to speak to a qualified dietitian, who can advise you on the best way to make a change to your diet, and discuss any pitfalls on your journey and how to avoid them.

The Tempo Nutrition Journey includes one (1) face-to-face and one (1) follow-up (face-to-face or virtual) consultation with a Tempo partner dietitian for a nutritional assessment and personalised eating plan.

You can start your online Nutrition Journey via the Bestmed App and/or Member portal (website) that will provide you with the platform to:

  • set personal goals.
  • track your nutritional intake.
  • participate in challenges.
  • access a library of health and wellness topics.

*Disclaimer: Please note that this article and the sources referenced does not constitute nutritional or medical advice. Underlying conditions and lifestyle factors like low blood sugar, low blood pressure, pregnancy and more need to be considered in consultation with a licensed healthcare provider before attempting any type of fasting or dietary change.


Johns Hopkins Medicine. Intermittent Fasting: What is it, and how does it work? Accessed 2023. Available here.

National Library of Medicine. Intermittent fasting: the science of going without. 2013. Available here.

Harvard Health Publishing. Intermittent fasting: The positive news continues. 2021. Available here

American Heart Association. 8-hour time-restricted eating linked to a 91% higher risk of cardiovascular death. 2024. Available here.

STAT. A study says intermittent fasting is making people drop dead. Oh, come on. 2024. Available here.

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