The benefits and precautions of intermittent fasting

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SALT LAKE CITY — With four decades of soccer under his belt, Mark Torbett's always been in shape. But things started to change when he turned 40 and started packing on some weight.

“I tried more soccer, I tried more cardio, I tried more water, I tried more organic chicken,” he said. Nothing seemed to work until Torbett decided to ditch a couple meals each week.

“I’ve been doing intermittent fasting almost every single week for at least one day,” he said. Torbett has done this for the last three years. On fasting days, Torbett limits his diet to about 100 calories each day.

“There’s not a whole lot of calories that I’m taking in,” he explained.

Within a very short amount of time, Torbett lost over 40 pounds. Naturally, he gets hungry, he admitted, but said it helps him lose weight, focus better, sleep more and even helps him perform better on the field. Torbett also credits his diet for reducing inflammation in his knee after being injured in a soccer game last year.

Torbett relates his fasting experience to going to the gym.

“You kind of drag yourself to the gym, but once you get there and once you’re going, you feel like a million bucks,” he said.

Intermountain Healthcare’s Dr. Benjamin Horne said intermittent fasting has shown to have many health benefits. He said it can help improve “things related to insulin resistance, diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure and coronary disease and so forth.”

Horne said fasting one to two days a week is relatively safe.

“The risks to an apparently healthy individual are pretty minimal for a one- to two-day fast,” Horne said.

But Horne said there is very little scientific evidence on fasting for longer than five days at a time. He warned individuals to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.

Intermountain Healthcare is conducting a trial now testing the effects of fasting on lowering cholesterol in patients with metabolic or cardiovascular concerns. Horne thinks intermittent fasting may find its place with people who aren’t really healthy anymore, but are not on the cusp of chronic illness.

Horne also encourages young children, elderly individuals, pregnant or nursing mothers and even immune compromised to not fast without talking to their doctor.


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