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Fact or fiction: Is intermittent fasting linked to heart disease and higher mortality rates?

Intermittent fasting is linked to higher mortality rates, studies have recently found.

Beet greens in a balanced meal plate
Beet greens in a balanced meal plate. Photo Credit: Markos Papadatos
Beet greens in a balanced meal plate. Photo Credit: Markos Papadatos

Intermittent fasting is linked to higher mortality rates, studies have recently found. Is this a medical fact or fiction?

On March 19, People Magazine reported that intermittent fasting is linked to a higher mortality rate, according to a recent study by the American Heart Association.

American Heart Association research

According to this American Heart Association press release that was featured in the People article, this study was conducted over 20,000 American adults and it found that the people that follow an eight-hour restricted eating schedule (as a type of intermittent fasting), have more than a 91 percent higher risk of death by heart disease.

This is compared to the people that eat within the normal timeframe of 12 to 16 hours in a day.

It also noted that people with heart disease or cancer have had an increased risk of cardiovascular death. Finally, it added that limiting food intake to less than eight hours a day is “not associated with living longer.”

While The New York Times echoed the same findings, it explored both sides of the coins and noted that this research comes with its limitations.

Dr. Victor Wenze Zhong is a professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine. He stated that since this study has not been published or peer-reviewed, it is hard to fully evaluate it. Also, it did not evaluate what kinds of foods people ate (which ought to be a substantial factor to take into account)

Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and distinguished professor of medicine at Tufts University, also described this study as  “very problematic.” The eight-hour window might have included many people who were “very busy, or faced other challenges that forced them to miss meals or eat erratically.”

Beets in a salad
Beets in a salad. Photo Credit: Markos Papadatos

USA Today stated that it was “surprised” to find that intermittent fasting has been flagged as serious health risk, especially since this is a trendy method for weight-loss and targeting inflammation.

In addition, in a Men’s Health article titled “The Truth About Fasting and Weight Loss for Men,” it debunked the myth, and stated that “skipping meals does not necessarily guarantee weight loss.”

Physicians explore what went wrong with this study

Dr. Carlos Santos-Gallego from The Mount Sinai Hospital stated that intermittent fasting is a “safe diet,” and that these study’s findings are “preliminary.”

Dr. Pal, a gastroenterologist and holistic health advocate, pointed out that this is not an “American Heart Association statement” and that it’s more of an abstract that was presented at a conference (that are not confirmed by any other experts).

Also, a major point was that these participants were asked about their eating windows only for two days, and that using this data to conclude on their long-term eating pattern

Another factor to take into account is “recall bias” from the people that are filling out the questionnaires (where they may not be able to remember, or they are biased).

Conclusion: More research is needed (on both sides)

The consensus from these medical professionals and scholars is that more research is needed to assess the long-term health benefits of intermittent fasting.

This journalist’s experience with intermittent fasting

Fortunately, this journalist has been doing intermittent fasting (eating in an eight-hour window from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) since January 1, 2024, and thus far, he has had many positive benefits from it, and has grown to enjoy it.

These benefits have included increased weight loss, reduced blood pressure, and increased energy levels (less fatigue).

Whether intermittent fasting is sustainable in the long run, that has yet to be seen, but so far so good.

Markos Papadatos
Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 21,000 original articles over the past 18 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a 16-time "Best of Long Island" winner, where for three consecutive years (2020, 2021, and 2022), he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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