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Heart Health Warning: Intermittent Fasting Linked to Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Mortality

While intermittent fasting has garnered attention for its potential weight loss benefits, a recent analysis presented at the American Heart Association’s scientific sessions raises concerns about its impact on heart health. Contrary to previous beliefs, researchers from Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine in China discovered a troubling association between time-restricted eating and an elevated risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

The study, presented on Monday, suggests that individuals who restrict their food consumption to less than eight hours per day face a staggering 91% higher risk of cardiovascular mortality over an eight-year period compared to those who eat within a 12 to 16-hour window.

Based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey spanning from 2003 to 2018, the analysis surveyed approximately 20,000 adults. It underscores some of the first research probing the link between time-restricted eating and cardiovascular outcomes.

However, co-author Victor Wenze Zhong cautions against drawing definitive conclusions solely from this study. While short-term intermittent fasting may yield weight loss benefits and improve cardiometabolic health, Zhong advises against prolonged fasting regimens, urging individuals to exercise caution.

Intermittent fasting encompasses various schedules, from restricting eating to a six to eight-hour period per day to the “5:2 diet,” involving limited calorie intake on two nonconsecutive days weekly. Despite its growing popularity, the study underscores the need for comprehensive understanding and further investigation into its potential implications for cardiovascular health.

While the findings offer valuable insights, experts emphasize the need for caution and context. Dr. Benjamin Horne, a research professor at Intermountain Health, highlights the short-term stress fasting imposes on the body, potentially increasing the risk of heart problems, especially among vulnerable groups.

However, Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez of Mayo Clinic suggests that the timing of fasting may influence its effects, urging a nuanced approach to interpreting the research. Amidst the ongoing debate, Dr. Pam Taub of UC San Diego Health underscores the diverse experiences of individuals practicing intermittent fasting, emphasizing its potential benefits observed in her patients.

As discussions surrounding intermittent fasting continue, experts advocate for a balanced understanding and further research to elucidate its complexities and potential implications for heart health.