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Intermittent fasting trend may pose risks to your heart. Maybe?

Plus: Parenting hacks for raising a healthy eater.

Tuesday. The number of millionaires in the U.S. has grown 35% since 2018 (It’s true—READ MORE HERE). Unfortunately, I must have missed the train on that one. In other more important news, intermittent fasting (IF) has been making headlines again. And this time, they aren’t super positive. So does IF, or time-restricted eating as some call it, really increase your risk of heart disease by over 90%? Let’s dive in.


The Latest On Intermittent Fasting

Hungry Breakfast GIF by Max

In the often confusing world of nutrition advice, a new study is causing some controversy after examining the effects of intermittent fasting, also known as time-restricted eating (TRE), on our health. The first wave of alarm came from headlines that highlighted a 91% higher risk of cardiovascular death linked to TRE. Here are some of the alarming headlines that were floating around:

But before you let panic set in, it's crucial we dive a little deeper into what the research says. Believe it or not, headlines can be misleading. 

All this buzz started with an abstract from a conference presentation, not a peer-reviewed study, meaning the findings hadn't undergone the rigorous scrutiny typically required to validate any type of research. This detail is important because it highlights that the conclusions drawn might not be as solid as they appear at first glance. Red flag number one. 

Next, the study analyzed data from participants' recall of their eating patterns over two days, which is hardly a concrete basis for asserting a direct cause-and-effect relationship between intermittent fasting and heart disease. Even the authors of the abstract cautioned against jumping to conclusions, stating explicitly that their findings did not prove TRE caused cardiovascular death. 

So why all the controversy? 

The uproar seems to stem from a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of what the data actually shows. Observational studies, like the one causing all the commotion, can point out correlations but are not equipped to prove causation. This distinction is crucial in nutrition science, where variables are many and controls are hard to maintain. 

In this case, participants were grouped by their average eating durations, but this method introduces recall bias and assumes that these patterns remained constant over a long time, which is unlikely. Again, participants were asked to recall their eating patterns over JUST TWO DAYS. I can’t even remember what I had for lunch two days ago.

It's also worth noting that the group practicing TRE was relatively small, had a higher average BMI, smoked more, and was younger than other groups, indicating that lifestyle factors other than eating patterns could have easily influenced health outcomes.

The study also did not control for food quality, calorie intake, or other key variables. So, if a participant fasted for 16 hours and then went on to stuff themselves with Cheetohs, pizza, and ice cream, that participant was still included in the TRE group. I think it’s safe to say that if that participant develops heart disease, it’s not because they do intermittent fasting. 

The key takeaway? While it's essential to approach new dietary studies with a critical eye, it's equally important not to let sensational headlines dictate our eating habits without understanding the nuances of the research. Time-restricted eating, like any diet, can be beneficial or detrimental depending on an individual’s health, lifestyle, and adherence to their nutritional needs. 

As the debate over whether TRE is good for you continues, remember that the most effective diet is one that is sustainable, balanced, and tailored to your personal health goals and needs.


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Parenting Hacks For Raising A Healthy Eater

Food Smile GIF by Mola TV Kids

Kids love chicken nuggets, snack puffs, fruit snacks, and french fries. But what about healthier choices like broccoli, fresh fish, or apple slices? Getting kids to eat well is not easy, but it is an essential part of this whole parenting gig. You might think that children are so young and active that what they eat doesn't matter. However, lifelong eating habits start early, and problems like heart disease and obesity are beginning to manifest themselves at increasingly younger ages.

Many parents find it challenging to encourage their children to eat healthy. The stores are filled with tasty indulgent foods that aren’t great for you. These foods are plastered all over the grocery store with bright colors and fun characters begging kids to grab them off the shelves. However, there are ways that parents can help their children make better food choices without making food a battle.

First off, it’s better not to make any foods feel forbidden. Some parents try to keep unhealthy foods out of reach, but this can backfire. In one study, kids were given unlimited access to cookie bars but told that another batch was off-limits. Even though they had free access to similar cookies, the children couldn't stop thinking about the "forbidden" ones and ended up eating three times as many.

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