Over 60 and dragging after an overindulgent holiday season? Then why not resolve to begin the New Year with an eating plan to shed some pounds and recover some pep?

That’s not just wishful thinking, according to a review of intermittent fasting published in the latest issue of the

For thousands of years and across nearly every culture and faith, fasting has been revered for its powers of spiritual and physical healing. But now, says Dr. Mark Mattson, senior author of a recent New England Journal of Medicine review, science has verified its benefits.

And coming from a Johns Hopkins Medicine neuroscientist who’s both researched and practiced intermittent fasting (IF) for more than 25 years, that claim carries extra weight. So…

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is limiting your eating to a set number of hours each day or days each week. It’s when you eat, and not how much, that matters.

For example, with an eight-hour window you might have your first bite at 10 a.m. and your last at 6 p.m. You could also choose a six- or 10-hour window, depending on how your day is shaping up.

The second option is to eating normally five days a week, but limit yourself to just one moderate-sized meal on the other two. Known as 5:2 intermittent fasting, it’s easier for people whose schedules revolve around regular mealtimes and snacks.

How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?

After reviewing the findings of 80 earlier studies, Dr. Mattson’s team concluded that intermittent fasting triggers one of our oldest survival mechanisms.

When food is scarce, our bodies enter metabolic switching. In other words, they stop running on the glycogen (sugars) stored in our livers and muscles and start running on stored fat.

The evidence is that IF also maintains healthy blood sugar levels, improves stress resistance and suppresses the inflammation responsible for a host of health problems.

And while you’re fasting, your cells switch from growing and dividing to cleaning and repair. When you begin eating, they return to growing and dividing – but into much healthier new cells.

Intermittent Fasting and the Aging Brain

Worried about age-related memory loss? If a University of Toronto clinical trial is any indication, intermittent fasting could help. After two years of calorie cutting, its 220 subjects showed signs of improved learning and memory function.     

Dr. Mattson suggests calorie-reducing IF also lessens the risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. In this engaging 2014 video, he details why that’s possible.

That said, he admits more research is needed to prove that IF can help our aging brains. But he’s committed to bringing word of its benefits to the medical community:

“We are at a transition point where we could soon consider adding information about intermittent fasting to medical school curricula alongside standard advice about healthy diets and exercise.”

Getting Started

Make veggies and leafy greens, fruits, nuts, fish, lean meat, healthy fats and whole grains your go-to IF foods. Keep sugar, salt (spices are fine) and processed or fried foods to a minimum.

And, as with any health-related changes you make, be sure to consult with your doctor before starting!

Have you ever tried intermittent fasting? If so, which method did you choose? Have you any tips to share? If you’re hesitant, what else would you like to know? Please join the conversation!

Disclaimer: None of the information in this article is intended to be medical advice. Please consult with a doctor before making any changes to your diet.

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