New study reveals a disturbing 91% spike in cardiovascular death risk for followers of intermittent fasting

A recent analysis presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention│Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions 2024 has uncovered a startling connection between 8-hour time-restricted eating, a form of intermittent fasting, and a 91% increased risk of cardiovascular death. The study, led by Victor Wenze Zhong, Ph.D., scrutinized dietary patterns of over 20,000 U.S. adults, revealing those who confined their eating to less than 8 hours a day faced significantly higher mortality rates from heart disease compared to those with more extended eating periods.

The study, which spans 15 years of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Death Index, casts a shadow on the long-term safety of the widely popular 8-hour time-restricted eating diet. This dietary trend, which restricts food intake to an 8-hour window with 16 hours of fasting, is now linked with a significant uptick in cardiovascular mortality risk.

Participants in the study averaged 49 years of age and were followed for a median period of 8 years, with some tracked for up to 17 years. The research underscores a disconcerting trend: those adhering to this restrictive eating schedule had a startling 91% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases compared to individuals who consumed their meals over a more traditional 12-16 hour timeframe.

Moreover, the study reveals that this increased risk is not confined to the general population. Individuals with pre-existing heart disease or cancer also exhibited elevated risks of cardiovascular death when following an 8-hour eating window. Specifically, among those with cardiovascular disease, restricting eating to between 8 and 10 hours raised the risk of death from heart disease or stroke by 66%.

Victor Wenze Zhong, Ph.D., the senior author of the study, expressed concern over these findings. “We were surprised to find that people who followed an 8-hour, time-restricted eating schedule were more likely to die from cardiovascular disease,” Zhong stated. He emphasized that even though such diets are popular for their short-term benefits, their long-term health impacts are not as benign as previously thought.

This research is part of ongoing efforts to understand how dietary patterns influence long-term health outcomes. The American Heart Association continues to recommend consulting with healthcare providers before making significant changes to one’s diet, especially for individuals with existing health conditions.

For more detailed insights into this groundbreaking study, visit the American Heart Association’s article.

This pivotal study not only questions the long-term safety of time-restricted eating but also prompts a reevaluation of its purported health benefits. While previous research highlighted improvements in cardiometabolic health measures, such as better blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol levels through intermittent fasting, the stark contrast presented by the increased risk of cardiovascular mortality cannot be overlooked.

The findings underscore the complexity of dietary patterns and their impacts on health. They serve as a critical reminder that what might work in the short term for weight loss or metabolic improvements does not necessarily translate to long-term health benefits. This revelation is particularly crucial for those with pre-existing health conditions, emphasizing the need for personalized dietary advice grounded in scientific evidence and careful consideration of individual health statuses.

The broader implications of this study could steer future dietary guidelines and public health policies towards more nuanced and personalized recommendations. It also highlights the importance of long-term research into popular diet trends to fully understand their impacts on health and mortality.

As we navigate the myriad of dietary advice and trends that emerge, this study acts as a poignant reminder of the importance of a balanced approach to eating and the need for ongoing research. Before adopting any restrictive diet, it’s essential to consult healthcare professionals and consider not just the potential benefits but also the risks involved.

In essence, while seeking to improve our health through diet, we must tread carefully, armed with the best available evidence and guided by professionals who can help tailor dietary choices to our individual health needs and long-term wellbeing.

Picture of Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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