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Is intermittent fasting dangerous? New study raises concerns about heart disease risk

Intermittent fasting associated with heart disease. After a surprising discovery in research presented at a medical gathering, experts doubted the safety of intermittent fasting, a common method for weight loss achieved by eating only at specific times.

The study, released in Chicago on Monday, found that restricting meal times to an eight-hour window daily was associated with a 91% higher risk of death from heart disease. However, only an abstract was published by the American Heart Association, leaving scientists curious about the study’s specific protocols. The AHA stated that the study underwent review by other experts before its release.
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As new medications aid weight loss, lifestyle interventions for shedding pounds have faced increased scrutiny. Some doctors have raised doubts about the study’s results, suggesting that differences in factors like underlying heart health between the fasting group and the comparison group—whose members ate over a daily period of 12 to 16 hours—may have influenced the findings.

“Time-restricted eating is a popular method for cutting calorie intake,” stated Keith Frayn, emeritus professor of human metabolism at the University of Oxford, in remarks to the UK Science Media Center. “This study underscores the necessity for long-term investigations into the impacts of this approach. However, this summary fails to address numerous lingering questions.”

Victor Zhong from the Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine led a team of researchers who analyzed data from approximately 20,000 adults participating in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The study examined responses to questionnaires and mortality data spanning from 2003 to 2019. Since it depended partly on forms where patients recalled their diet over two days, scientists noted the possibility of inaccuracies. Approximately half of the participants were male, with an average age of 48.

The duration of intermittent fasting among the patients wasn’t explicitly specified, although researchers presumed its continuation, as noted by Zhong.
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He mentions that the fasting patients tended to be younger men with a higher BMI and experienced food insecurity. Additionally, they reported a lower incidence of hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Despite controlling for these factors in the analysis, Zhong noted that the positive link between eight-hour time-restricted eating and cardiovascular mortality persisted.