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The New Diet in Town – Intermittent Fasting

The New Diet in Town – Intermittent Fasting

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Intermittent Fasting

You: Why aren’t you eating lunch?

Co-worker: Oh I’m skipping lunch,  it’s just this new diet I started. It worked so well for my cousin. She lost 10 kilos! It’s called intermittent fasting.

Sounds familiar? In recent years, we’ve heard chatter about intermittent fasting on social media, our social media circles and health blogs. 

What is intermittent fasting? Is it healthy? Will it lead to other health problems? Whether it’s intermittent fasting for weight loss, overall health or lowering your blood sugar, keep reading to find out all the details about intermittent fasting. 

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles  between periods of fasting and eating. It doesn’t necessarily involve omitting certain food types to achieve your weight loss goals but focuses more on when you should eat vs what you should eat (that means you don’t have to say goodbye to cake forever, yay!)  AKA, in a typical intermittent fast, you will eat for a certain period of time and you will fast for a certain period of time. During fasting, you eat very little or nothing at all. 

Let’s look at some popular intermittent fasting methods: 

  1. The 16/8 method (popular with beginners)

With this, people generally skip breakfast but maintain their regular eating period for  8 hours. For example, you could only eat between 12 pm – 8 pm. After 8pm, you will be fasting for 16 hours until you can eat next.

         2. The 5:2 diet 

This dietary plan involves only consuming 500-600 calories during two non-consecutive days of the week. You can eat as you usually do on the other five days. 

         3. Eat-Stop-Eat (best for advanced/experienced fasters)

Eat-Stop-Eat requires fasting for 24 hours, usually once or twice every week. For instance, you would not eat anything between lunch on one day and lunch the next day. 

Please consult with a nutritionist before you begin the above diets.

 

Intermittent Fasting Balanced Diet

So, does it really work? 

40 studies found that subjects lost 3-5 kilos over ten weeks after an intermittent fasting period. Another study with 30 participants, including obese individuals, who practised intermittent fasting over 12 weeks achieved a 6.5% reduction in weight. That’s a sweet deal, isn’t it?

How often should you practise intermittent fasting?

Usually, the intermittent fasting period is for 16 or 24 hours daily, twice a week. It is recommended that you start slow if you are a beginner. For example, you can start with the 16/8 method (scroll up for more details). Refer to the FAQs below to find out if intermittent fasting is right for you.

How does it impact your body?

During this fasting process, your body adapts your hormone levels to make stored body fat more usable. In a nutshell, this is what happens:

  • Your growth hormone increases significantly. This helps in fat loss and even muscle gain.
  • Insulin sensitivity improves, decreasing your insulin levels (so, this is beneficial for diabetic patients) . Again, this causes your stored body fat to be more accessible. 
  • Hence, a fat-burning hormone, norepinephrine, is released, resulting in weight loss.
  • Whenever you fast, your cells begin a repairing process called autophagy where your cells digests and removes old and dysfunctional proteins building up in cells.
  • Your metabolic rate will also rise by 3.6-14%! 
How intermittent fasting works

Is it unhealthy for women?

Intermittent fasting involves hormonal changes to occur. Since hormones play a huge role in fertility and reproduction it is important to be cautious.  The hormonal changes that occur during the fast may impact your oestrogen, thyroid and cortisol hormones, resulting in low energy, reduced skin and hair health, etc. 

However, intermittent fasting can be practised by women in a healthy manner to avoid hormonal imbalances from happening. As per Flo Living, here are some tips you can follow.

  • Avoid fasting on consecutive days
  • Do not fast for over 12-13 hours at a time
  • Hold off intense workouts on fasting days
  • Do not fast when you’re menstruating 
  • Choose the best diet for your hormonal health

Now, onto some of the most common question everyone has about intermittent fasting

The most important one of the lot: Is intermittent fasting healthy?

As mentioned above, intermittent fasting has a range of health benefits. However, here are some common questions people have related to intermittent fasting plans;

Does intermittent fasting cause digestive issues?

The reduction in food intake may cause constipation, bloating and diarrhoea in some cases. However, a sufficient fibre intake will alleviate this.

What are the side effects?

Hunger, mood changes and dehydration are some side effects of intermittent fasting. However, carefully sticking to the necessary fasting periods, not exceeding them and ensuring water intake throughout the day will help you successfully practise intermittent fasting.

Please do consult a doctor before practising intermittent fasting if you are 

  • Underweight
  • Having a history of eating disorders
  • Having diabetes
  • Having low blood pressure
  • Taking medications
  • A woman who is trying to conceive
  • A woman having a history of amenorrhea
  • Pregnant / Breastfeeding

Finally, after prolonged intermittent fasting, if you are experiencing extreme hunger, headaches, fatigue, and faintness, it is recommended to stop this eating pattern.

If you have a particular weight loss goal or any doubts about your diet for your intermittent fasting plan, you can consult dieticians from the comfort of your home via oDoc

References

  1. Intermittent Fasting 101 – The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide, Healthline (2022)
  2. Do intermittent diets provide physiological benefits over continuous diets for weight loss? A systematic review of clinical trials, RV Seimon, JA Roekenes, Jessica Zibellin, Benjamin Zhu, AA Gibson, AP Hills, RE Wood, NA King, NM Byrne, Amanda Sainsbury (2015)
  3. Alternate day fasting for weight loss in normal weight and overweight subjects: a randomized controlled trial, KA Varady, Surabhi Bhutani, MC Klempel, CM Kroeger, JF Trepanowski, JM Haus, KK Hoddy and Yolian Calvo (2013)
  4. 9 Potential Intermittent Fasting Side Effects, Healthline (2021)
  5. Intermittent Fasting and Hormonal Health: What You Need to Know, Flo Living (2021)
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Pedal Power: Health Benefits of Cycling

Pedal Power: Health Benefits of Cycling

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Fuel shortage in Sri Lanka leads to more cycling

In a state where public transport has also been limited, and bus ticket prices have risen exponentially, the lack of transport options has made daily commuting and travelling during emergency situations increasingly difficult. As a result, walking and cycling have become almost the only choice for many Sri Lankans.

Cycling is a low-impact aerobic exercise that offers a wealth of benefits. It is a great exercise that keeps you moving and helps establish a physically and mentally healthy lifestyle.

1. Cycling can help you lose weight

Cycling is a great aerobic workout that burns calories and helps people lose weight and belly fat. To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you take in. Depending on your intensity and weight, cycling can burn between 400 and 1000 calories each hour.

Body parts that are exercised, targeted, toned, and used while cycling

  • Foot: Ankle dorsiflexion and plantar flexors
  • Arms: Triceps and biceps 
  • Shoulders: Deltoids
  • Calf: Gastrocnemius and soleus
  • Buttocks or Gluts: Gluteus minimus, gluteus maximus, and gluteus medius
  • Thigh: Quadriceps and hamstrings

2. Cycling boosts mental health and brain power

Cycling can ease feelings of stress, depression, or anxiety as it may help take your focus away from the mental chatter of your day.  When cycling, concentrating on the road or your cadence might help you improve your attention span and awareness of the present moment. Here are a few ways cycling could boost your positive mental health.

  • It improves your mood. Cycling increases blood flow throughout your body, allowing endorphins and other feel-good chemicals like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin to spread quickly.
  • It promotes positive mental health. Exercise is known to have significant effects on self-esteem, sadness, anxiety, and stress. Still, cycling has been identified as one of the most beneficial exercises for the head and heart.
  • It helps you sleep better. Regular riding helps synchronise your circadian rhythm and can help to reduce levels of stress hormones that can make proper regenerative, deep sleep difficult.
  • Improves your memory. Riding a bike helps build new brain cells responsible for memory. 
  • Improves creative thinking. The regular, uniform movement of cycling relaxes the brain, stabilising both physical and mental functions.
  • Cycling promotes new thought patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. You can use it as a type of meditation and a great way to “zone out.”
benefits of cycling

3. Cycling improves balance, posture, and coordination

As you stabilise your body and keep your bike upright, you’ll improve your overall balance, coordination, and gait.

Maintaining balance is important because it tends to deteriorate with age and inactivity. Therefore, enhancing your balance can help lower your risk of injury and keep you off the sidelines by preventing falls and fractures.

correct posture of cycling

4. Cycling can reduce the risk of heart diseases

Regular cycling stimulates and improves your heart, lungs and circulation, reducing your risk of cardiovascular diseases such as strokes, high blood pressure and heart attacks.

Cycling also helps your cardiac muscles become more robust and lowers your resting pulse and blood fat levels.Additionally, research shows that people who cycle to work have a lung function that is two to three times better than those who commute by car.

Drawbacks of cycling and safety

Cycling has a few disadvantages to consider, and these primarily relate to cycling outside, which involves factors beyond your control.

There could always be a risk of an accident, whether in an urban or rural area. Hence, 

  • Obey the law at all times. Even if you have the right of way, exercise caution when passing through crossroads and crowded locations. Invest in a good helmet and any other necessary safety equipment.
  • Avoid wearing any loose clothing that could get caught in your bike chains.
  • Unfavourable weather might also be a barrier. So, invest in rain and cold weather gear and have a backup transportation plan for when conditions are unsafe for riding.
  • For extended daytime rides, use sunscreen on all exposed skin.
  • Take a break if you experience pain, fatigue, or muscle soreness.
  • If you have any cycling-related injuries, staying off the bike is best until you fully recover.
tips for cycling safely

The bottom line

Given the current situation in Sri Lanka, cycling to your destination may seem like the only option. However, just play it safe and use caution when necessary, especially on busy roads or during unfavourable weather.

If you have any injuries or need clarification regarding conditions that cycling may affect, speak to a general practitioner or a physician via the oDoc app.

Sources

  1. 15 benefits of cycling: why cycling is great for fitness, legs and mind, Cycling Weekly (2022).
  2. 12 Benefits of Cycling, Plus Safety Tips, Healthline (2021).
  3. Cycling – health benefits, Better Health (2021).
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“Good” and “Bad” Cholesterol – What you need to know

“Good” and “Bad” Cholesterol - What you need to know

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Cholesterol is the misunderstood, problem child of wellness and good health. It gets a bad rap, but no one really tells you why it’s there, what it does, or why it isn’t just all bad. In this week’s blog, we break down the what’s what of cholesterol so you will have a greater appreciation of its benefits and why it’s important to keep tabs on its status. 

What is cholesterol? 

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all the cells of your body. It’s not inherently bad; it has an important function: your body needs it to build cells and make vitamins and hormones. Your liver produces about three-quarters of the cholesterol in your body, and the rest comes from animal foods such as egg yolks, meat, and cheese. However, too much cholesterol can cause problems. 

Cholesterol travels through your bloodstream on proteins called “lipoproteins.” There are 2 types of lipoproteins:

LDL (low-density lipoprotein), or “bad” cholesterol

LDL makes up most of your body’s cholesterol. It’s a larger molecule, so high levels of LDL mean there can eventually be a build-up within the walls of your blood vessels, causing narrowing of the passageways and inhibiting the free flow of oxygen-rich blood. Further, there are possibilities for clots to form and get stuck in a narrowed space, which could lead to a heart attack or stroke.

HDL (high-density lipoprotein), or “good” cholesterol

HDL is the good guy: helping clean up the mess! It travels through your blood, picks up excess cholesterol, and takes it back to your liver, where it is broken down and removed from your body. HDL helps you lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Triglyceride

The HDL cholesterol is closely related to triglycerides, a type of fat found in your blood that is stored in your fat cells and later released by your hormones for energy between meals. However, suppose you regularly consume more calories than you burn, especially from high-carbohydrate foods, it may result in high levels of triglycerides​​, which increases the risk of strokes, heart attacks and heart disease.

Usually, those with high triglycerides have a propensity to have low HDL cholesterol levels. The triglyceride/HDL ratio should be below 2 (divide your triglyceride levels by your HDL). If the triglyceride/HDL level is above 4, it is considered a risk, and therefore it is advisable to have a lower ratio by changing diet and taking up exercise. 

Increased triglycerides can be a reliable sign of biliary function, fat metabolism, liver function, and genetic factors. Problems with sugar typically accompany elevated triglycerides (sweet tooth) or adult-onset diabetes. Therefore, maintaining a triglyceride level between 70 and 100 mg/dl is advisable. 

Reduced triglycerides indicate inadequate fatty acid release, hormonal hyperactivity, and perhaps immunological issues.As opposed to simply high cholesterol and LDL/HDL ratios, keep in mind that the triglyceride to HDL ratio is a significantly better predictor of heart disease. It’s crucial to realise that additional factors besides high cholesterol also point to possible issues.

Risk factors that can impact your cholesterol levels

  • அதீத உடல் பருமன்
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Diet high in saturated and trans fats
  • Lack of exercise
  • Smoking
  • Genes
  • Old age

What are optimal levels of HDL cholesterol?

 

Risk levels

Desirable level

Men

Less than 40 mg/dL (1.0 mmol/L)

60 mg/dL (1.6 mmol/L) or above

பெண்கள்

Less than 50 mg/dL (1.3 mmol/L)

60 mg/dL (1.6 mmol/L) or above

Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood or millimoles (mmol) per liter (L).

How could you keep these numbers in check?

Things outside of your control can also affect cholesterol levels.

Age and Sex – The older you get, your cholesterol levels rise. Before menopause, women have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After the age of menopause, women’s LDL levels begin to rise.

Heredity – Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes. High blood cholesterol can be genetic.

Race – Certain races may have an increased risk of high blood cholesterol. For instance, African Americans typically have higher HDL and LDL cholesterol levels than whites.

Many things influence your cholesterol levels, which you have control over.

Physical activity – Though genes and weight may play an important role, your lifestyle choices around diet and exercise also influences your overall numbers.

Eat healthily – Add more fibre (whole grains) to your diet and include healthy fats like olive oil, Avacado and certain nuts. 

Limit your alcohol intake –  Drinking too much alcohol can raise levels of triglyceride fats in the bloodstream and lead to conditions such as high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation.

Consider quitting smoking – Smoking decreases HDL cholesterol.

Check your cholesterol levels – Knowing your cholesterol status can help you control your health.

  • If you are an adult under 45, it is advisable to get your cholesterol checked every 4 to 6 years.
  • If you have heart disease, diabetes or a family history of high cholesterol, it is advisable to check your cholesterol more often.
  • Children and adolescents should check their cholesterol at least once between ages 9 and 11 and again between ages 17 and 21.

Men between 45 to 65 and women between 55 to 65 should check for cholesterol every 1 to 2 years.

Are you unable to go to the hospital to get a test done?

oLabs provides a hassle-free process for checking your calendar and booking mobile lab tests via the oDoc app according to your flexibility. 

  • Convenience – You can simply stay at home and wait for your scheduled appointment time without worrying about traffic or parking. 
  • Safety – You can avoid crowded and potentially germ-filled waiting rooms. Instead of feeling awkward while your test samples are being collected, you can just relax in the comfort and safety of your own home. 
  • Efficiency – If more than one person in your household needs a test sample, we can gather both samples simultaneously. This omits the need for multiple appointments or trips to the collection clinic. 

However, if you wish to discuss more or gain advice on maintaining your cholesterol levels, speak to a general practitioner via the oDoc app from the comfort of your home.

Reference

  1. The Recommended Cholesterol Levels by Age, Healthline (2021).
  2. Nutrition and healthy eating, Mayo Clinic (2021)
  3. Cholesterol, Healthdirect (2020).
  4. Cholesterol ,Mediline plus (2020).
  5. What is Cholesterol? Heart attack and strong symptoms (2020).
  6. HDL cholesterol: How to boost your ‘good’ cholesterol, Mayo Clinic (2020).
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All you need to know about Gestational Diabetes

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

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