Hope & Healing: The UF Health Blog

Flipping the Metabolic Switch to Fight Obesity

Calorie restriction without malnutrition has been shown to impart a number of health benefits in addition to weight loss in overweight adults. However, many adults have difficulty sustaining calorie restriction long-term. Intermittent fasting is an increasingly popular alternative to sustained calorie restriction, and has been shown to impart similar benefits of weight loss and improvement in cardiovascular health. Troy William Donahoo, M.D., FTOS, a clinical associate professor at the University of Florida College of Medicine’s Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, and his colleagues recently published a widely cited article in which they propose the mechanism by which intermittent fasting works.

Donahoo states, “Humans in hunter-gatherer societies were intermittently subjected to times of little or no food. For energy, their metabolism learned to adapt by quickly switching from lipidogenesis or fat storage to fat mobilization. The history of fasting for medical purposes dates back to the ancient Chinese, Greek and Roman physicians.” From their extensive literature search, Donahoo and colleagues found that intermittent fasting regimens flip a metabolic switch in the body, promoting short-term ketogenesis to transform fat into energy while preserving muscle mass and function.

Donahoo puts these findings into perspective, “The obesity epidemic in America, which certainly affects us right here in Florida, is getting worse. Clinicians are treating patients who are obese and battling comorbidities, such as Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and dyslipidemia. Employing intermittent fasting regimens to flip the metabolic switch from fat storage to fat mobilization gives clinicians a valuable tool to help improve body composition in patients who are overweight or obese, with many inherent potential health benefits.”

UF Health is committed to furthering the base of knowledge into how intermittent fasting may help to optimize physiological function, enhance performance and slow aging and disease processes, including exploring biomarkers of the metabolic switch.

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