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What We Got Wrong About Intermittent Fasting — Plus 6 Tips to Do It Right

It is impossible to surf the web and not notice articles popping up every day on the benefits of intermittent fasting, or IF. This is a relatively new term to most of the public and can be defined as vaguely as “healthy eating” or “moderation in everything”. Is the term IF precise, and what are some simple tips to use sensible breaks from eating to promote health?

In the article below, What We Got Wrong About Intermittent Fasting — Plus 6 Tips to Do It Right, published on, Professor Valter Longo of the University of Southern California answers these important questions. Essentially, he indicates that the term IF is not appropriate unless the period of fasting is over 24 hours. Most plans being discussed are better called time restricted feeding, or TRF.  He suggests a window of 12 hours without eating every day – which is a form of TRF, not IF. He also recommends just 2 meals a day and a small snack that’s low in sugar. Finally, Dr. Longo recommends a diet that is largely plant-based with some fish, which he often calls a vegan-fish diet, to optimize the chances of avoiding disease and enjoying longevity.

What We Got Wrong About Intermittent Fasting — Plus 6 Tips to Do It Right

Here’s Dr. Longo’s take on the intermittent fasting (IF) craze and some tips to help you understand the concept accurately and implement it more effectively.

1. Our terminology is wrong

For starters, intermittent fasting doesn’t mean what we think it does. When we talk about Leangains 16:8 protocol or the 5:2 diet as methods of intermittent fasting, the concept we’re really referring to is “time-restricted feeding” (TRF).

In “The Longevity Diet,” Dr. Longo explains that the label intermittent fasting “represents a problematic direction because it allows people to improvise and pick and choose periods of fasting that range from 12 hours to weeks, giving the impression that… some ‘abstention from food’ is similar or equivalent, and all provide health benefits.”

Dr. Longo’s advice: To get in the right mindset, he recommends to “start using the right terminology.” It’s not fasting if you’re going without food for 24 hours or less — the correct term is time-restricted feeding.

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  • peter ezzell

    July 15, 2018

    On time restricted feeding – I have found that Satchin Panda of Salk is a much better resource on TRF as it is his area of research.. Dr. Longo’s comment on gallstone formation needs to be sorted out. I can’t find a cited source in his book or in PubMed. I suspect gallstone formation may be an issue for people who eat SAD, and is probably something that GI physicians observe for the general population who often eat fairly nasty food. For someone like me, who eats a quality vegan diet, as does Dr. Kahn, I suspect that gallstones formation is a non-issue, or has not been studied. I know of two prominent researcher, Dr Mark Mattson (NIH) and Dr. Guido Kroemer (Paris) who eat one meal a day during the week and do this based on extrapolating animal model research.. In addition, work by Eric Verdin of the Buck Institute on ketones suggests that it takes upwards of 16 to 20 hours w/o food to get ketones to start ramping up, and thereby get the benefit of ketones as a signalling molecule and possibly other metabolic benefits (a bit of autophagy, etc.). Anyhow, I see this time window issue as being significant to get sorted. and clarification of the mechanisms which bring on gallstones.

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