Intermittent fasting: possible benefits for treating depression – Health

Currently, depression and anxiety are the most common psychological disorders in the world, and the situation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has only worsened their numbers. Also, we must not forget its close relationship with metabolic health and obesity, another disease that continues to rise like foam.

Among the possible solutions to these clinical conditions, nutrition is key, and not a day goes by without a miracle diet emerging, promising benefits beyond its true scope. Should we add the famous intermittent fasting to this category? It seems not.

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These are his powers

Although it is now fashionable, our species has practiced intermittent fasting naturally for thousands of years. Homo sapiens did not always have food available 24/7.

The reason for the media and popular impact at the moment lies in its effectiveness as a method of weight loss and in the benefits attributed to it in reducing cardiometabolic risk.

For this reason, it is usually prescribed to patients who are overweight or obese and who show a predisposition to diabetes. Likewise, it affects a lot that it is more tolerable and can be maintained in the long term with less effort than continuous calorie restriction.

Intermittent fasting makes it easier to synchronize with your circadian rhythms. This means it helps to synchronize meal times with our internal biological clock.

It also facilitates synchronization with circadian rhythms. This means that it helps to align mealtimes with our internal biological clock, which depends on the hours of the sun, usually between 8am and 4 or 6pm.

The benefits of intermittent fasting are related to the change that occurs in the metabolism. After spending several hours without eating food, the body changes its fuel: it switches from using glucose (sugars) to using fat.

Autophagy processes are also triggered, a natural way for our body to cleanse itself by breaking down cells for recycling, which allows energy generation and cell renewal.

Finally, it improves the functioning of both the immune system and the axis that connects the gut microbiota (microorganisms that live in the digestive system) and the brain. In the background, eating is an invasive act and overdoing it too often causes our body to strain.

Two ways to fast

Coffee or tea can be taken with sugar.

Among the various dietary modalities that are grouped under the umbrella of intermittent fasting, two are the most practiced: fasting on alternate days and limiting the intake window.

The first consists of a drastic reduction in food on alternate days (between two and four per week), fasting that can range from eating nothing at all to eating up to 25% of energy needs for a day.

In both cases, it is allowed to drink water and calorie-free drinks such as tea or coffee without sugar.

In turn, the second method involves spending only a daily period of time for eating, usually between 6 and 10 hours. During the rest of the day from 14.00 to 18.00 no food is accepted, with the exception of water, tea and coffee.

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antidepressant effects

As we pointed out above, these practices seem to have a beneficial effect on the body and metabolism, but to what extent do they affect mental health, specifically depression and anxiety? We tried to find out in our study.

After analyzing the scientific literature and 14 studies conducted with 562 participants in this area of ​​research, we reach some conclusions. The first is that at least doing one type of fasting or another does not make depression or anxiety worse, nor does it change our mood. And more importantly: it appears that it may even help reduce symptoms of depression.

Although you might think that those who undertake intermittent fasting are exposed to mood swings by not eating when they are hungry, it appears that this is not the case. Rather, the opposite would happen.

Autophagy and the release of free fatty acids, ketone bodies (waste fats), neurotransmitters, various hormones, and biomarkers such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor would explain the improvements in depressive symptoms.

Not to forget its effects on glucose regulation, stress resistance and inflammation reduction. The aforementioned characteristics could attenuate the neuroinflammatory processes associated with depression.

Another study was published on August 8 that confirms what we show in our work. Intermittent fasting—specifically, restricting the eating window in accordance with the circadian rhythm—was more effective than continuous calorie restriction at improving mood. Increases vitality and energy and reduces fatigue and depression.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, people who practice intermittent fasting, especially meal period restriction, show high rates of acceptance and adherence. Looking and feeling great inside and out makes it easier for us to maintain this eating pattern long term.

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Although the results are promising, one should be cautious: long-term studies comparing different fasting modalities and their impact on mental health are lacking. And if you have doubts or suffer from any pathology, it is better to consult your doctor and nutritionist before deciding to practice it.



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