Intermittent fasting could unlock lower rates of cancer and obesity as well as cut stress and even make us live longer, new research suggests, but significant hurdles are getting in the way of the diet’s advantage. Rather than the typical current diet plan of three meals per day, spread out fairly evenly through daylight hours, intermittent fasting sees people squeeze their meals into just a handful of hours.
It’s not a new concept, but it has gained traction in recent years with the rise of so-called “paleo” diets and greater attention paid toward atypical eating routines. At the same time, studies have looked at potential health and lifestyle benefits, focusing on how intermittent fasting can prompt what’s known as a metabolic switch, the body shifting from using glucose-based to ketone-based energy.
Usually, those following an intermittent fasting plan would eat within a six hour window each day, and then fast for the remaining 18 hours, though some extend that to as much as 20 hours. The potential benefits from that are more than just around weight loss. According to a new review by Rafael de Cabo, Ph.D., and Mark P. Mattson, Ph.D., of John Hopkins University School of Medicine, “many of the health benefits of intermittent fasting are not simply the result of reduced free-radical production or weight loss.”
Benefits of intermittent fasting
According to the review, “intermittent fasting elicits evolutionarily conserved, adaptive cellular responses that are integrated between and within organs in a manner that improves glucose regulation, increases stress resistance, and suppresses inflammation.” During periods of fasting, the body’s cells would normally shift into processes where damage is removed or repaired, and cellular stress is addressed. However, given the meal cadence of the typical diet, the processes don’t have much time to work.
One of the best-known benefits of intermittent fasting is a change in how the body generates its energy. After a meal, glucose from food is used for energy; fat is stored for later use. When fasting, that fat is broken down in turn, with the liver converting fatty aides to ketone bodies.
Those ketone bodies aren’t just a sign of fat being broken down, but act as “potent signaling molecules” for our cells and organs. For example, they can influence how proteins, molecules, and genes that influence factors like aging, neurodegenerative disorders, and overall health – among other factors – are produced. Other studies found intermittent fasting could also help improve glucose regulation, manage blood pressure, and cut down on body fat.
The problem with intermittent fasting
While the science may be there, the lifestyle changes for intermittent fasting are a much bigger issue, the study’s authors conclude. Perhaps the biggest issue is that we’re just not in the habit of abstaining for extended periods of the day.
“First, a diet of three meals with snacks every day is so ingrained in our culture that a change in this eating pattern will rarely be contemplated by patients or doctors,” they suggest. “The abundance of food and extensive marketing in developed nations are also major hurdles to be overcome.”
There are also barriers to sticking with such a diet, like the inevitable hunger, irritability, and a loss in concentration. That’s usually limited to the first month, the researchers point out, but it can be a significant hurdle during that period, and it relies on healthcare professionals making clear that it’s a temporary side-effect. Problem is, it’s also suggested, physicians themselves often lack the training to give good intermittent fasting advice.
Could a pill replace intermittent fasting?
One other avenue of research, mainly in animal models, has been the hunt for a pharmacologic alternative: a pill that replicates the benefits of intermittent fasting. That has included drugs that impose the same sort of challenge to the body’s metabolic system that fasting does, or that specifically triggers the sort of processes that go on during ketosis.
We’re still some way from a pill that can do that, however. According to the researchers, “the available data from animal models suggest that the safety and efficacy of such pharmacologic approaches are likely to be inferior to those of intermittent fasting.” In short, if you want the best results, you need to stick to the diet.
The best intermittent fasting diet
There are several diet structures that all fall under the umbrella term of “intermittent fasting,” and there’s no one single perfect meal plan for every person. The most common is probably the daily time-restricted feeding regimen, where you eat within a period of around six hours, and then avoid food for the remaining 18 hours period.
However there’s also the 5:2 intermittent-fasting regimen to consider. That limits daily calorific intake to just 500 calories on two days per week, with regular healthy eating on the remaining five days. Whichever structure is picked, there should be a focus on exercise and meal nutrition too.
What intermittent fasting shouldn’t be, though, is a sudden blow to the system. That, at the very least, is a recipe for quickly giving up on the diet. Instead, a four month transition period – preferably with regular monitoring of body weight, along with glucose and ketone levels – is recommended, in the hope of making a long-term behavioral change that maximizes the diet’s potential benefits to health.
Pfizer Vaccine Safe for Elderly Despite Norway Scare, WHO Says – BNN
(Bloomberg) — The World Health Organization said it sees no evidence that Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccine contributed to the deaths of elderly people and urged that the shot still be used.
Reports of deaths “are in line with the expected, all-cause mortality rates and causes of death in the sub-population of frail, elderly individuals, and the available information does not confirm a contributory role for the vaccine in the reported fatal events,” the WHO Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety said in a statement on Friday. The risk-benefit balance of the vaccine “remains favorable in the elderly.”
The panel met on Tuesday to review reports that some very sick older people had died after getting the vaccine. Initial cases reported last week in Norway had raised alarm, with authorities saying it was possible that vaccine side-effects could aggravate underlying illnesses even as they expected some nursing-home residents to die shortly after being vaccinated due to their frail underlying health.
Norway moved to calm that anxiety on Monday, with the Norwegian Medicines Agency saying that Covid-19 is more dangerous to most patients than vaccination.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
Canada adds 5,955 new COVID-19 infections as Pfizer vaccines get delayed further – Global News
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who oversees vaccine logistics for the Public Health Agency of Canada, broke the news Thursday that deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to Canada in the first week of February would be 79,000 doses — only one-fifth of what was promised.
Canada won’t be the only country hit by the delay though, with longer waits expected for countries in Europe and Mexico bracing to not to get any doses at all for nearly three weeks — all due to a temporary slowdown in production after the vaccine companies announced an expansion to their plant in Belgium last week.
Deliveries from Moderna, the other company whose vaccine is approved for use in Canada, will not be affected.
In a tweet Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that he was assured in a conversation with the CEO of Pfizer Global that Canada would receive four million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine by the end of March.
In total, Canada is set to receive a combined six million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines — an amount totaling to vaccinating three million Canadians should they follow their respective two-dose regimens.
News of the worsening delay also comes amid a stark warning from the country’s top doctor, who expects cases of severe illness from COVID-19 will continue to rise in the coming days — ultimately leading to more hospitalizations and deaths.
“Strong and sustained efforts are needed to reduce heavy demands on the health-care system,” wrote Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam in a statement Thursday.
“Without this, the ability to continue with the present level of elective procedures will become increasingly difficult in heavily impacted areas.”
The warning comes as Canada’s cases of COVID-19 tally at 731,450 following Thursday’s new infections. Another 160 deaths were added as well, pushing the country’s death toll from the virus to 18,622.
Of Canada’s total infections, over 645,720 patients have since recovered from the virus however while over 20,925,000 tests and 738,864 vaccine doses have been administered to date.
Ontario added another 2,632 cases on Thursday, as well as another 46 deaths. Total cases there now stand at 247,564, with Ontario set to overtake Quebec this week as the province with the highest number of confirmed cases.
Quebec recorded another 1,624 infections, as well as another 66 fatalities. The death toll in the province remains the highest in Canada, with over 9,270 Quebecers succumbing to the virus to date.
British Columbia added another 564 cases and 15 more deaths on Thursday. The province has also registered a total of 559 “epi-linked” cases, who are people that were in close contact with confirmed cases and display symptoms of the virus, but were never formally tested for it. A total of eight cases included in today’s count are considered “epi-linked.”
Alberta added 678 more infections on Thursday, pushing the provincial caseload to 119,114. The province marked a grim milestone on Thursday as well, with its death toll passing the 1,500 mark after another 16 deaths were announced.
How long does post-infection immunity last in COVID-19 survivors?
In Saskatchewan, another 226 cases were reported Thursday. The province also recorded its highest ever daily death toll from the virus after 13 more deaths were announced by public health officials there. A total of 239 COVID-19 related deaths have occurred in Saskatchewan since the beginning of the pandemic.
Officials in Manitoba Thursday announced an easing in COVID-19 restrictions, with most in the province now able to get haircuts and buy non-essential items in stores come Saturday.
Health officials there also recorded another five COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, as well as 198 new cases of COVID-19.
In Atlantic Canada, both Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador added a single case each, while New Brunswick reported another 32 infections. Prince Edward Island did not add any new cases on Thursday.
Both the Yukon and Nunavut did not report any cases on Thursday. Global News’ tally also recorded a single new case in the Northwest Territories, though the infection was originally identified on Wednesday. N.W.T.’s total caseload stands at 31 confirmed infections.
Worldwide cases of the novel coronavirus continue to spread, with global total infections now standing at 97,425,000 according to Johns Hopkins University. A total of 2,087,820 people have also succumbed to the virus, with the U.S., India and Brazil continuing to lead in both cases and deaths.
— With files from the Canadian Press
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Don’t downplay mRNA: Experts say new technology could change the vaccine landscape – Westerly News
When drug companies like Pfizer and Moderna learned to successfully incorporate messenger RNA technology into a COVID-19 vaccine, experts say they likely opened the door to a significant shift in the future of immunization.
The milestone in vaccine development was met with enthusiasm from most, but the seemingly swift pace and novel approach is causing hesitancy in others.
Experts say the new technique shouldn’t dissuade people from getting the vaccine. While the mRNA method is new to inoculations, the actual technology has been around for decades.
The difference now, they say, is scientists have ironed out the kinks to make a useful product.
“It sounds fancy, mRNA, but there’s nothing outlandish about it,” said Dr. Earl Brown, a virology and microbiology specialist with the University of Ottawa. “This is the way our cells operate — we live by mRNA.”
Vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna were the first inoculations approved for humans to use mRNA, which provides our cells with instructions to make proteins. In the case of COVID vaccines, the injected material shows cells how to make a harmless piece of the coronavirus spike protein, which then teaches our immune system to recognize the virus and fight off a future infection.
Scientists made the vaccine by programming genetic material from the spike protein into mRNA, a process that theoretically could work for other viruses.
“As long as you know how to create those instructions — that genetic code you need to convince your body to create that target — you can design an mRNA vaccine against any antigen,” said Nicole Basta, an associate professor of epidemiology at McGill.
“But the question is whether it will be effective, and whether it will be safe.”
The development of future mRNA vaccines might be quick, Basta says, but they would need to go through the usual evaluation process and clinical trials to ensure safety and efficacy. So vaccines for other viruses won’t be popping up overnight.
Still, Basta adds, there’s potential for using mRNA to either improve upon existing vaccines or to develop new ones against other pathogens.
Dr. Scott Halperin, a professor at Dalhousie University and the director of the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology, sees mRNA vaccines as “evolutionary rather than revolutionary.”
Part of the reason COVID vaccines came together so quickly was the technology had been developing for years, Halperin said. The global pandemic offered scientists a pressing opportunity — and unprecedented funding and collaboration — to try again for a viable injection.
Previous research had been done on creating mRNA vaccines against Zika and other viruses, Halperin added, and there were earlier efforts focused on cancer treatments. Coronavirus-specific research was further sped up by spike protein analysis from SARS and MERS.
While the mRNA technology itself is impressive, Halperin says improvements need to be made to create a more temperature-stable product before these types of vaccines and treatments “truly take over.”
“The logistics of delivering mRNA vaccines right now, we wouldn’t want to have to do that for every vaccine we produce,” he said, referencing the ultra-cold storage temperature that’s currently needed. “But I do think it’s an important milestone.”
Scientists are expected to continue advancing the technology, just as they did recently in solving two confounding problems with mRNA — its fragility and instability.
Brown says fragility was resolved by packaging the mRNA in a fat coating, giving it something to help bind onto cells so it wouldn’t disintegrate upon injection. The instability was conquered by modifying the uracil component of RNA, one of the four units of its genetic code.
“The technology application is new, but the science is mature,” Brown said. “We’ve just reached the point at which we can apply it.”
Traditional vaccines typically contain a killed or weakened virus, Brown said. Those methods are still being used in COVID vaccine development, including by AstraZeneca-Oxford, whose product has not yet been approved in Canada.
A benefit to using mRNA is the speed at which a vaccine can be developed or updated once scientists know what to target, Brown says.
While experts believe current vaccines will work against recent variants of the COVID virus — including one originating in the U.K. that’s more transmissible — Brown says mRNA’s adaptability could theoretically come in handy if new strains emerged that necessitated an update.
“In six weeks they could produce something,” he said. “It would still have to go through Phase 3 trials, but it does give you more flexibility and a big leg up.”
Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
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