There are countless methods to lose weight, and if you’re someone who’s been looking for ways to do so, you’ve probably come across the term “intermittent fasting.”
Intermittent fasting is a trending new dieting strategy that has gained a lot of popularity in recent years for its ability to help you lose weight quickly and the fact that it doesn’t restrain your food choices. While most people think of intermittent fasting as a weight-loss intervention only, several studies suggest that intermittent fasting may have numerous health benefits as well, especially for people over the age of 50.
In this article, we take you through the science behind intermittent fasting over 50 and what benefits it holds as we explore this new weight-loss method.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a popular new eating pattern that involves scheduling your meals at specific times of the day, allowing you to get the most out of them.
Most conventional diets focus on limiting what you can and cannot eat. However, intermittent fasting is a relatively new weight loss strategy that focuses on when you can eat to make the most out of it, based on a study about your body’s metabolism and other elements. Intermittent fasting involves periods of complete or partial abstinence from eating throughout the day. Beyond this short period of abstinence, you can continue to eat regularly as it is not a restrictive diet, just a time-managed one.
Fasting has been a common phenomenon throughout history. In prehistoric times, before learning how to farm, people used to survive by hunting and gathering food for themselves. Since hunting took a lot of time and energy, this means that their bodies learned how to function without any food for extended periods. As a result, the human body has now evolved to function for hours without having food.
Why Do We Gain Belly Fat Over 50 and Why Is It Difficult to Lose?
We all tend to gain more belly fat as the years go by. For many people, as they near the age of 50, their body starts to gain more fat, and it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain a healthy weight. However, an increase in body fat does more than just make it hard for your jeans to fit. Having an excess amount of belly fat has been shown to pose serious health risks.
But what causes you to accrue abdominal fat over the age of 50, and why is it so difficult to lose that excess fat as you get older? Let’s take a look at some of the reasons.
Decreased Metabolism and Activity
As we age, the amount of lean muscle mass that we have tends to decrease, a process called sarcopenia. Since your lean muscle uses more calories than fat, the loss of muscle matter reduces the use of these calories in your body. These unburned calories end up as fat that increases your waistline. Additionally, most people also tend to become less physically active when they get older, which also contributes to the increased abdominal fat below their waistline.
Both men and women undergo significant changes in their hormonal levels as they age.
Women tend to store more fat in their hips and thighs to support a possible pregnancy before they reach the stage of menopause. However, once menopause approaches, which usually occurs between the age of 45 and 55, women experience a significant drop in their estrogen levels, which encourages fat to be redistributed back to the belly. This is what causes the sudden increase in abdominal obesity in women over the age of 50.
On the other hand, men also experience a significant decrease in their testosterone levels with age. Among its numerous functions, testosterone is responsible for regulating the fat distribution and muscle mass in men. Hence, its decline can significantly reduce the body’s efficiency in burning calories.
However, losing that extra belly fat is much more difficult for women than for men. Since men generally have a greater lean muscle mass, they tend to burn more calories. On the other hand, women tend to lose fat from their hips and thighs rather than their midsections, which is why it is so much harder for women to lose abdominal weight than men.
What Are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting For Women Over 50?
Evidence from decades of animal and human research points to wide-ranging health benefits of intermittent fasting, according to an NIA-conducted review of the research published in the New England Journal of Medicine. These studies have shown intermittent fasting to not only be a very powerful possible weight-loss tool but also a great way to improve your body’s health.
Here are only some of the many benefits and secrets to the science behind intermittent fasting over 50 for women:
- Reduced Belly Fat: As discussed above, it becomes increasingly difficult for women to lose weight as they approach the age of 50. The science behind intermittent fasting can help women lose weight and belly fat without having to count calories or restrict their diet.
- Improved Heart Health: Several studies have shown that intermittent fasting can reduce the risk of heart disease by positively impacting risk factors such as obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes. One study  suggested that intermittent fasting can help reduce blood sugar, LDL cholesterol, and triacylglycerol concentrations, which are all risk factors for heart disease.
- Cancer Prevention: Several animal studies have suggested that intermittent fasting may reduce the risk of developing cancer in humans. One study  investigated the role of intermittent fasting on the mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species in mice and found that it could have a potential positive antioxidant effect and could modulate the oxidative stress associated with aging. However, no large-scale human studies have been carried out to support this theory.
- Improved Brain Functioning: Some studies have shown that intermittent fasting can help enhance a person’s focus and brain functioning. One study  suggests that this is done by an increase in the brain hormone BDNF and the growth of new nerve cells.
- Improved Gut Health: An increasing amount of research has found that intermittent fasting can help support the health of gut bacteria. One mouse study  showed that intermittent fasting promoted bacterial clearance, maintaining the ideal balance of bacteria. By giving your body a break from constant digestion, the bad bacteria are starved quicker than the good bacteria, giving the good microbiome better chances of colonizing the gut, thus improving digestion.
How to Start Intermittent Fasting
Since every person’s experience with intermittent fasting is different, there are several different variations of this eating pattern that you can choose from based on which one suits your lifestyle, and in-depth knowledge of the science behind intermittent fasting over 50 will help you do that.
The most popular type of intermittent fasting is the 16:8 diet, which involves fasting for 16 hours in a day, leaving an 8-hour window for you to eat. With this practice, people usually finish their evening meal by 7 or 8 p.m. and skip breakfast the next day, to have their first meal at noon. A study  on mice that restricted their feeding hours to only eight hours in a day showed that it protected them from obesity and associated diseases such as diabetes, inflammation, etc.
Another popular type of intermittent fasting is called alternate day fasting, which involves fasting every other day. However, this type of fasting is very difficult, especially for beginners or those with certain medical conditions. One small-scale randomized controlled trial  involving thirty-two participants investigated the effects of alternative day fasting on the participants’ weight. The results of the study showed that the participants lost an average of 11 lbs. over twelve weeks.
Another branch of intermittent fasting is the flexible meal skipping approach that involves occasionally skipping meals according to hunger level, which is much easier for many people.
The best type of intermittent fasting plan for beginners, however, is the twelve-hour plan, which involves fasting for twelve hours a day. Since most of the fasting occurs during sleep, this type of fasting plan is much easier to carry out.
After deciding on an intermittent fasting plan for yourself, you can create a schedule for your mealtimes. But before you introduce intermittent fasting into your daily routine, make sure to talk to your doctor, especially if you’re diabetic or need to take any medication with your food. Additionally, make sure to review your current diet, and if it does not include enough nutrients of a balanced diet, you might want to reconsider it.
When you begin your intermittent fasting journey, start with a short period of abstinence such as twelve or thirteen hours. Then add more hours to your fasting window while ensuring that you are meeting your macronutrient needs and drinking plenty of fluids.
The Science Behind Intermittent Fasting Over 50 – Key Takeaways
Though losing weight may seem to get more difficult with age, evidence-based strategies such as intermittent fasting can help you achieve a healthy and fit body even after 50. If you’re struggling to lose weight and want to get rid of that stubborn excess belly fat, then intermittent fasting may be exactly what you need. Intermittent fasting is just one of the many lifestyle strategies you can implement in your life to improve your health. John Hopkins dietician Christie Williams, M.S., R.D.N. says, “Intermittent fasting can be a lifestyle change and one with benefits.” Therefore, understand the science behind intermittent fasting over 50 and plan your routine accordingly.
However, keep in mind that intermittent fasting can have different effects on different bodies, so make sure to talk to your physician if you’re experiencing any unusual symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or headaches after you begin the intermittent fasting regime.
- Is intermittent fasting good for people over 50?
Yes, intermittent fasting is an extremely beneficial dietary pattern for people over the age of 50 as it can help people reduce their belly fat while also providing potential health benefits.
- How does a 50-year-old woman lose weight?
Incorporating strength training into your workouts, following a strict and balanced diet plan, reducing sugar and fat intake, and intermittent fasting are all some of the tried and tested methods you can use to improve your overall health and reduce your body weight.
- Is there a science behind intermittent fasting?
Yes, there is a science behind intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is thought to boost HGH production in the body, which in turn boosts our metabolism. Stored glucose is then released from the fat in our bodies to produce energy, which reduces our body weight.
- Is there any age limit for intermittent fasting?
People under the age of eighteen are strongly advised not to fast. While there is no strict maximum age limit for intermittent fasting, those who face nutrition-related complications due to their age are also advised against it.
- Research on intermittent fasting shows health benefits. National Institute of Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/research-intermittent-fasting-shows-health-benefits
- Varady KA, Bhutani S, Church EC, Klempel MC. Short-term modified alternate-day fasting: A novel dietary strategy for weight loss and cardioprotection in obese adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;90(5):1138-1143. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.28380
- Descamps O, Riondel J, Ducros V, Roussel AM. Mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species and incidence of age-associated lymphoma in OF1 mice: Effect of alternate-day fasting. Mech Ageing Dev. 2005;126(11):1185-1191. doi:10.1016/j.mad.2005.06.007
- Lee J, Duan W, Long JM, Ingram DK, Mattson MP. Dietary restriction increases the number of newly generated neural cells, and induces BDNF expression, in the dentate gyrus of rats. J Mol Neurosci. 2000;15(2):99-108. doi:10.1385/JMN:15:2:99
- Godínez-Victoria M, Campos-Rodriguez R, Rivera-Aguilar V, et al. Intermittent fasting promotes bacterial clearance and intestinal IgA production in Salmonella typhimurium-infected mice. Scand J Immunol. 2014;79(5):315-324. doi:10.1111/sji.12163
- Hatori M, Vollmers C, Zarrinpar A, et al. Time-restricted feeding without reducing caloric intake prevents metabolic diseases in mice fed a high-fat diet. Cell Metab. 2012;15(6):848-860. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2012.04.019
- Varady KA, Bhutani S, Klempel MC, et al. Alternate day fasting for weight loss in normal weight and overweight subjects: A randomized controlled trial. Nutr J. 2013;12(1):146. Published 2013 Nov 12. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-146