The Western world is in the throes of an epidemic. It’s sparking an incidence of disease on a frightening scale, spreading low self-esteem and shortening life expectancy among millions of people. The whole world is now preoccupied with the coronavirus, but its the obesity epidemic that continues to claim victims apace, and in spectacular numbers. The culture of abundance may offer nutrition security, but it also exacts a steep price.
Staying on a diet to reduce one’s weight is difficult; results are hard to achieve and maintain in the long term. But the problem runs deeper: It is very tough to improve scientific knowledge about obesity, because it entails carrying out research over many years involving documentation of what people consume.
But what if there is another way to confront the problem of overeating? What if there’s a method of nutrition that can increase one’s life expectancy by 30 percent, as has already been seen in hundreds of studies on animals? Moreover, what if scientists could show that this method not only facilitates weight loss but improves cognitive abilities and can slow down the development of a host of diseases, ranging from diabetes and Multiple Sclerosis to cancer and cardiac ailments? And what if this whole method is summed up in a simple rule: to limit the time frame for eating to eight hours daily and to abstain from food for the rest of the day?
In December, neuroscientist Mark P. Mattson and gerontologist Rafael de Cabo, from Johns Hopkins University, published a seminal article in the New England Journal of Medicine, the world’s most prestigious medical journal. The two offered a survey of two decades of research on the habit of fasting for part of the day, and found a solid scientific basis for a diet that has become increasingly popular in recent years: to concentrate meals into an eight-hour period and refrain from eating for the other 16 hours.
In the article, entitled “Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and disease,” De Cabo and Mattson went beyond presenting the health-related advantages of such a regime. Indeed, they called for revamping existing nutrition recommendations for the general public. Whereas today people are being urged to adopt a so-called Mediterranean diet and eat small meals scattered throughout the day, the two scientists from Baltimore propose the conducting of a long-term study on intermittent fasting, as well as the integration of such a diet into the recommendations of modern medicine. The benefits could be dramatic.