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How True is This Report on the Increase in Cardiovascular Disease Through Intermittent Fasting?

Author: Yean Toh | Published date: July 6, 2024 | Category: Medical

Hey all, it's Coach Alvin here! Recently, a report published by the American Heart Association caught my eye. This study involving over 20,000 adults found that those who followed an 8-hour time-restricted eating schedule had a 91% higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease. As an advocate of intermittent fasting (IF), I was not only surprised by the headlines but also motivated to dig deeper into the study.

Let me break down why I believe these claims aren't entirely accurate and highlight some limitations of the study.

Correlation vs. Causation

The study identifies an association between time-restricted eating and cardiovascular death but does not establish causation. It's crucial to understand that other factors could contribute to the observed outcomes. For example:

  • Diet Quality: During their eating window, did the subjects consume healthy whole foods, or did they indulge in high-sugar and high-calorie diets? These dietary choices are known determinants of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Lifestyle Factors: Were the subjects engaging in any form of exercise? Did they maintain good sleep hygiene?
  • Preexisting Conditions: Were the participants already predisposed to heart disease, such as having a higher BMI?

These questions were not answered with clarity in the study.

Self-Reported Data

The study relies on self-reported dietary information, which may be subject to recall bias and inaccuracies. Participants might not accurately remember or report their eating habits, leading to potential misclassification of dietary patterns.

Additionally, using only two days of dietary recall may not adequately represent an individual's usual eating habits. Dietary patterns can vary from day to day due to social occasions, food availability, mood, and personal preferences. Thus, the data collected might not capture the full spectrum of dietary variability within the study population.

Generalizability

The study population consists of U.S. adults, which may limit the generalizability of the findings to other populations with different dietary patterns, lifestyles, and genetic backgrounds. This means the results might not apply to everyone globally.

Need for Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs)

Observational studies like this one cannot establish causality. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are needed to provide stronger evidence. RCTs would allow researchers to assess the causal effects of time-restricted eating on cardiovascular outcomes while controlling for potential variables.

The Bigger Picture

There have already been numerous research studies supporting the health benefits of intermittent fasting, extending beyond just heart health to combating type 2 diabetes, promoting weight loss, and improving brain health.
To adopt a successful intermittent fasting regimen, the quality of the food we consume and the physical activities we engage in are crucial determinants of the outcome.

Conclusion

Intermittent fasting might have its perks for heart health, but it's not without its risks and uncertainties. Remember to consult with a healthcare professional before making any major dietary changes!

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