Intermittent fasting: Get the real scoop, not misleading headlines

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“He who eats until he is sick must fast until he is well,” is an English proverb. And Ben Franklin hit the nail on the head with: “To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals.” Fasting has been around for millennia, but lately there’s been focus on intermittent fasting -- not eating for 12-16 hours daily -- as a way to lose weight and upgrade your metabolic profile.

So, is IF effective? The latest study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, says it’s not a help for weight loss. That’s caused a lot of confusion. But this study’s IF participants could eat any unhealthy thing they wanted from noon to 8 p.m. for 12 weeks. And that fasting group didn’t take in any fewer calories than the study’s other group, who were allowed three meals a day and snacks whenever they wanted. When the researchers compared results, they concluded IF doesn’t make you metabolically healthier or help you lose more weight than eating around the clock.

Time-restricted eating, but pigging out the rest of the time on foods that prematurely age you, is never a good idea. Weight loss and metabolic improvements depend on how you fuel your body. You want it to be plant-based, high-fiber, with lean proteins and omega-3-rich fish (don’t reduce your overall protein intake). If you eat that and add IF, you’ll more easily reduce your calorie intake, lose weight, improve metabolic markers such as blood sugar levels, and reduce lousy LDL cholesterol levels. Nothing iffy about that!

Tattoos are no sweat -- literally 

Recently, a schoolteacher in France lost his teaching job after parents complained their kids were scared of him. The reason? The 35-year-old man has every inch of his body (even his tongue) covered in tattoos. He’d spent at least 460 hours getting inked.

Tattoo enthusiasts may not be aware that such extreme decorations pose health risks, but they do -- from allergic reactions to cancer caused by the black ink and heart disease and heart failure caused by the cadmium in red ink. 

Now researchers have identified a new hazard: The ink can keep sweat glands from functioning, leading to chronic skin irritation, heat cramps and heatstroke. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology evaluated the amount of perspiration generated by people with tattoos. It turns out that when the body sends a message to sweat glands under inked skin to “Sweat, baby, sweat,” the glands just don’t. In short, “tattooing functionally damages secretion mechanisms,” say the researchers.

So, before getting a tattoo, consider the risks and take precautions. 

-- Infection? There’s no way to tell if the ink is safe (some, says the Food and Drug Administration, is better suited to painting cars), and bacteria and other pathogenic materials can end up in ink. If the shop doesn’t seem clean or the tattoos are deeply discounted, leave immediately. 

-- Check that the practitioner is using PPE, and needles and ink from sealed containers.

-- Avoid blanketing large areas of the body with ink. Less is more. 

-- Do research before making your epidermis a canvas.

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