Does Intermittent Fasting Cause Heart Problems?

Headlines claim intermittent fasting is linked to cardiovascular disease. But a closer look tells a different story.

Welcome to the positive corner of the internet. Every weekday, we make sense of the confusing world of wellness by analyzing the headlines, simplifying the latest research, and offering quick tips designed to make you healthier in less than 5 minutes. If you were forwarded this message, you can get the free daily email here.

Today’s Health Upgrade

  • Does fasting cause heart problems?

  • The French fry paradox

  • If you weren’t positive before…

Arnold’s Podcast

Want more stories from Arnold? Every day, Arnold’s Pump Club Podcast opens with a story, perspective, and wisdom from Arnold that you won’t find in the newsletter. And, you’ll hear a recap of the day’s items. You can subscribe on Apple, Spotify, Google, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Does Fasting Cause Heart Problems?

Did you see the study about fasting?

Headlines this week claimed that time-restricted eating (the scientific term for intermittent fasting) was linked to a 91 percent higher risk of cardiovascular death.

First things first: No peer-reviewed study shows a cause-and-effect relationship between intermittent fasting and heart disease. 

The “study” was actually an abstract from a conference presentation. That doesn’t mean the data is bad; it just means it hasn’t been reviewed and gone through the process that helps validate the findings. 

More importantly, the research doesn’t lend itself to making such big claims. The scientists looked at data where participants tried to recall how they ate for two days. So, technically, we don’t even know if the people who ate for fewer hours were even practicing intermittent fasting. In other words, a time-restricted feeding group was not compared to a non-time-restricted feeding group and then analyzed over time. 

Does this mean there’s nothing to take from the research? It’s too early to say, but because it’s just an abstract, the headline was more than just a little premature; it was irresponsible. Research like this might offer clues to ask better questions, design different studies, and see if there’s fire where there’s a little smoke.

Even the abstract authors wrote, “Although the study identified an association between an 8-hour eating window and cardiovascular death, this does not mean that time-restricted eating caused cardiovascular death.”

Intermittent fasting can be an effective way to eat and support weight loss, but many of the benefits are overstated. At this point, if you follow a time-restricted eating diet and it’s helping you manage your weight and be healthier, there’s no need to fear it will cause cardiovascular issues.

Did You Want Fries With That?

Do you ever regret that serving of fries you ordered? Next time you decide to indulge, we hope this reduces your guilt. 

Researchers found that eating French Fries doesn’t make you gain more weight than eating almonds—as long as total calories are controlled. 

The study randomly placed participants in one of three groups: 300 calories of almonds, 300 calories of French fries, or 300 calories of fries with a spice/herb mix. 

After 30 days, there was no difference in body fat, fasting glucose, insulin, HbA1c, or insulin resistance between the almond and French fries groups. The almond group did have a lower post-meal glucose response, but — as we’ve shared before — it’s completely normal for your glucose to fluctuate after a meal with carbs. It’s only an issue if your glucose remains elevated. 

This isn’t to say that French fries are healthy or that you should eat them daily. However, it’s another example (in an endless list of examples) suggesting that — if total calories are controlled — there’s a time and place for foods you enjoy that don’t have nutritional benefits.

Three hundred calories are three hundred calories. Some foods affect hunger differently and might lead to overeating. However, in this study, the scientists didn’t control anything else—diet, exercise, or other healthy behaviors—they just added 300 calories of fries or almonds. 

We share these studies because research suggests that when you don’t restrict all the foods you love and shift your mindset — you’re more likely to stick to a plan and see better results. 

How to Become More Positive

We love being the positive corner of the internet, so consider this one of the best reasons to stick around:

Research suggests being positive and optimistic about the future can boost your chances of living 85 years or more by over 50 percent.

Scientists used survey data to follow more than 70,000 people. Men were followed for 30 years and women for ten years. Unlike other surveys, the data was tracked for a long period of time (30 years), and the scientists accounted for different variables that affect lifespan, such as education, chronic disease, depression, alcohol use, exercise, diet, and even doctor’s visits.

The results were hard to ignore. On average, optimistic men and women lived about 15 percent longer than less optimistic people and were more likely to be “exceptional agers.”

The life-expanding benefits of optimism are linked to how positivity helps you fight off stress, adapt to life's unpredictable nature, develop new habits, and be more patient with the process. Plus, research suggests that the more positive you are, the easier it is to exercise and eat better.

If you struggle to be positive, here’s more good news: Research suggests optimism is a learned trait. One study found spending 5 minutes per day imagining your “best possible self” — in your personal, relationship, and occupation domains — can boost optimism.

Publisher: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Editors-in-chief: Adam Bornstein and Daniel Ketchell