What is Intermittent Fasting?

We were designed by nature for a way of living and a way of eating that has almost disappeared from our culture. As a consequence we have an epidemic of chronic degenerative diseases in the Western countries.

Two out of three people are overweight or obese, one in three have a metabolic syndrome or a diabetes, one in two will come down with cancer in their lifetime or will experience diminished brain power as they age.

Understanding the biological system that regulates hunger and satiety along with energy balance is the key to preventing eating disorders, metabolic decline, muscle waste and undesirable weight gain. Observational and some randomized trials indicate that modest weight reduction (>5% of body weight) reduces the incidence and progression of many of these diseases.

Although weight control is beneficial, the problem of poor compliance in weight loss programmes is well known. Even when reduced weights are maintained, many of the benefits achieved during weight loss, including improvements in insulin sensitivity, may be attenuated because of noncompliance or adaptation. Sustainable and effective energy restriction strategies are thus required.

One possible approach may be intermittent energy restriction (IER), with short spells of severe restriction between longer periods of habitual energy intake. For some subjects, such an approach may be easier to follow than a daily or continuous energy restriction (CER) and may overcome adaption to the weightreduced state by repeated rapid improvements in metabolic control with each spell of energy restriction. The same is true with meal frequency reduction (MFR).

As the mechanisms of feeding and energy homeostasis are studied and clarified, treatments based on natural manipulation of hunger and satiety have demonstrated to be absolutely effective in the treatment of these disorders. As a matter of fact, manipulation of hunger and satiety may be useful in resetting the neurobiology of dopamine pathways, restoring hormonal activity, and attenuating or even preventing the age-related decline of growth hormone and sexual hormones.

These strategies may help affect the enormous morbidity associated with obesity and its related diseases and may also help eliminate the risks associated with drug therapy. Teaching people to experiment, to control and to manipulate hunger should become a routine preventive-medicine strategy for all the people who live in the Western countries and for all the patients who suffer from related diseases.

  • alan

    finalmente ho trovato anche un dottore italiano. ottimo articolo. mi sono scoperto carbo/zucchero-dipendente e mi sto sentendo molto meglio da quando pratico IF alla "leangains" per così dire.

    i am also following a ketogenic nutrition and i need to say that for most of the time the sugar cravings have been at bay. some days (especially in approaching the full moons, and it is not a joke!, the past two days i.e.) are less manageable than others so i tend to overeat, this time on fats and proteins, which it is better compared to sugar binges relating to energy and water retention.

    i said finally an italian doc as i am not optimistic that a low carb lifestyle in italy will florish soon due to the huge financial interest bound to pasta and bread industries we have in our country. we, a people that eat pizza with a loaf of bread at the same time!..

    it is a shame because not everyone can obtain information from english based resources.

    i hope the number of people like you will raise.

    keep up your good work.


    • Thanks for sharing your opinion on IF with us, Alan.

      R U Italian, by any chance?

      It's important to point out that current medical opinion is that the benefits of fasting are unproven and until there are more human studies it's better to be cautious.

      If one really want to try intermittent fasting then he/she should do it under medical supervision, because there are many people, such as pregnant women or diabetics on medication, for whom it could be dangerous.

      Unfortunately, in Europe there are only a few trained specialists who know how to properly use intermittent fasting and this prevent many people who suffer from obesity and related disorders from accessing these powerful therapeutic strategies.

      • alan

        hello dr. piccini,

        i am italian, from nearby trento.

        i , of course, was talking about what is working for me. i have realized that in the last couple of years i was craving sweet foods more than i ever did with no chance to stop once i gave in to the first bite of biscuit or , for an italian the best/worse, nutella! . but since i have switched to a low carb diet i find that my cravings have almost completely disappeared ( besides approaching some full moons. that sounds weird, but i keep a diary and it happens regularly. i suspect the nearer the moon , the most influential on mood ).

        i usually run in the morning in a fasted state and ate lots of fruit ( which btw for me behaves like candy now) and veggie so the switch over was without withdrawing.

        regarding IF i have a question:

        when i fast after a period of normal eating, within ten minutes of my first meal on breaking fast, i almost always encounter that i get two bouts of bad diarrhea . i read that our body during fast cleanses itself through autophagy ridding itself of some toxins.

        what is your take on this?


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