Issues in Interdisciplinarity 2019-20/Evidence in Intermittent Fasting

From Wikibooks, open books for an open world
Jump to navigation Jump to search

This chapter discusses the use of evidence concerning biology, sociology, marketing, among others, when analysing intermittent fasting to outline the importance of an interdisciplinary approach and explore issues facing interdisciplinary researchers. To grasp a better understanding of why intermittent fasting is an important topic, a discussion about how our eating choices are impacted everyday through advertisements is necessary.


The act of fasting, defined by the Oxford Dictionary as "a period during which you do not eat food"[1], has been a common practice for centuries. In Ancient Greece, it already enjoyed vast popularity and was heavily endorsed by Hippocrates for its benefits.

Ever since, fasting has been used for medical and religious reasoning. It plays a great role in the world's major religions. In Christianity and Judaism, fasting is associated with mourning and atonement for sins. Islam made fasting easy by correlating it with self-purification during Ramadan. Passages from the Quran illustrate how people are encouraged to fast:"…And fasting is good for you, if you only knew." (Ch.2:v.185)[2]

Today, one of the most common types of fasting is intermittent fasting. This emboldens individuals to eat during a certain period of time, for example, six hours, and then, to fast for the remaining time, in this case, 18 hours. Alternative approaches on intermittent fasting exist, namely alternate-day fasting, periodic fasting, and time-restricted feeding, each allowing you to eat for different lengths of time.

In the last decades, the volume of academic research on intermittent fasting has increased, each discipline coming up with its own form of evidence.

The social construction of "three meals a day"[edit]

Anthropological view on eating patterns[edit]

Anthropology concentrates on the behaviour of our ancestors and individuals from primitive and Palaeolithic cultures who lived their lives as hunter-gatherers. Anthropologist showed that these individuals used to hunt for food to ensure their survival[3]. Thus, their next meal was often unpredicted, unscheduled, and could fluctuate depending on the season. Even though they were unaware of their eating patterns, individuals in the primitive society used to fast as a way of life. [4]

Sociological view on eating patterns[edit]

Sociology, which studies "the interaction and collective behaviour of organised groups of human beings" [5], focuses on how eating habits were established and became cultural patterns through time. The evidence found, such as field research through observation and scholarly books, have confirmed that eating at regimented times is a cultural pattern people have embraced because there is comfort in predictability[6].

Sociologist Robin Fox revealed how breakfast times used to depend on social status rather than nutritional needs.[7] The upper-class had later breakfasts than the working class, suggesting they had time for leisure activities.

However, this eating pattern no longer works with today’s modern schedules[6]. Evidence, particularly a survey overseen by the US Department of Agriculture, exposed a deviation from breakfast and lunch being the main meals[8] to lunch and dinner. We can, therefore, deduce that modern itineraries dissonate with the eating patterns we have adopted.

Scientifical evidence on Intermittent fasting[edit]

Genetical Perspective[edit]

Genetics examines the "heredity and variations of organisms"[9]. Researchers question eating habits based on our genome. Undoubtedly, as humans used to live as hunters-gatherers, oscillating between periods of fast and feast, the genes selected were adapted to our originative lifestyle. Looking at our genotypes' evolution we can have a better understanding of our metabolism. Evidence illustrate that the "three meals a day" pattern answers social requirements rather than obliging our bodies' metabolism.

Evidence, from scholarly articles and genetical experiments, shows that a current major health issue, insulin resistance, may be the consequence of the encounter between the genomes selected during the Palaeolithic era and our current lifestyle, characterised by the abundance of food.[10][11]

One experiment undertook[10] subjected eight men to fasting, following up with laboratory reports of blood flow and insulin rates. The results show that intermittent fasting improves our metabolic status and increases insulin action, reducing the mismatch between our genotypes and eating habits.

Physiological Perspective[edit]

Physiology focuses on the impact of Intermittent fasting on our bodies. Scientists entrust on evidence suchlike experiments on rodents and humans to show its benefits. Studies show that intermittent fasting improves metabolism's stress resistance across species, proving that this diet contributes to lifespan extension.

Furthermore, intermittent fasting aids the function and resilience of the cardiovascular system. As evidence, scientists have observed a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure of rats that were undergoing intermittent fasting.[12]

Another study published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry unveiled that intermittent fasting improved left ventricular function and recovery of blood pressure and heart rate.[12]

Neurosciences Perspective[edit]

Neurosciences inspect the consequences of intermittent fasting on our brain and our memory by mainly using evidence from brain scans or MRI. Some studies have found that putting mice on intermittent fasting leads to an increase in their memory and improves their reaction to stress.[13]

Consumerism in society[edit]

Following the emergence of marketing and consumerism in the food industry, the methods that are used to sell products have changed substantially as time passed. Our eating habits can be explained by the advanced marketing techniques that they use, encouraging us to overeat.

Marketing and overeating[edit]

One of the key factors behind overeating is choice. Being exposed to the same stimuli, particularly food, will numb senses leading to "sensory-specific satiety". Therefore, people eat more when they have more food choices[14]. For example, 'Starbucks' claims that there are over 80.000 possible drink combinations available[15]. The powerful marketing techniques behind this array of variety are personalisation and convenience which persuade consumers into a purchase.

Annual advertising budget for brands of food and beverages in USA[16]

The psychology of overeating[edit]

Advertising, as defined by Cambridge Dictionary “the business of trying to persuade people to buy products”[17], is deeply enrooted in the food industry. This industry is always looking to persuade people to overeat “to satisfy stockholders”[18]. They allocate substantial amounts of money on food advertising, therefore insinuating the impactful role it has on consumer purchases.

Evidence, namely the study led by the University of Wollongong, clearly suggests the influence advertisements have on eating behaviours. Participants were required to watch movies segments interspersed with either food or non-food advertisements over six days. The results of the study found participants ate more after being exposed to promotions [19].


The evidence clearly suggests that Intermittent fasting is beneficial for our health and that the "three meals a day" approach is solely a social construction. Yet, our eating habits remain unchanged.

The lack of cohesion and thorough discussion on evidence between the disciplines led to an underestimation of the importance of fasting. By bringing together evidence on fasting with an interdisciplinary spectrum, it would improve its' analysis and is more likely to impact on society's flawed eating habits.

Nonetheless, even if an interdisciplinary researcher tried to link the evidence, he would still face the issue of recognition. Findings done by more subjective disciplines such as social sciences or marketing are often disregarded by scientifical branches of academia that perceive evidence done through experiments as absolute. Therefore, there is a fundamental disagreement on the actual nature of evidence leading to disharmony of opinions as previously seen.


  1. Definition of “fast” from the Oxford Dictionary. Available from
  2. The Holy Quran - Chapter: 2: Al-Baqarah [Internet]. [cited 27 November 2019]. Available from:
  3. Harari Y. Sapiens A Brief History Of Humankind [Internet]. 2019 [cited 26 November 2019]. Available from:
  4. Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes [Internet]. PMC, US National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health. 2019 [cited 30 November 2019]. Available from:
  5. Definition of “sociology” from the Merriam Webster Dictionary. Available from
  6. a b Freedman P. Food:The history of taste [Internet]. Google Books. 2007 [cited 25 November 2019]. Available from:
  7. Fox R. Food and Eating: An Anthropological Perspective [Internet]. [cited 2 December 2019]. Available from:
  8. Hamrick K. Americans' Eating Patterns and Time Spent on Food: The 2014 Eating & Health Module Data [Internet]. 2019 [cited 26 November 2019]. Available from:
  9. Definition of “genetics” from the Merriam Webster Dictionary. Available from
  10. a b Halberg N. Effect of intermittent fasting and refeeding on insulin action in healthy men | Journal of Applied Physiology [Internet]. 2005 [cited 30 November 2019]. Available from:
  11. Li-Gao R. Genetics of fasting and postprandial metabolite levels are overlapping [Internet]. National Center for Biotechnology. 2018 [cited 30 November 2019]. Available from:
  12. a b Mattson M. Beneficial effects of intermittent fasting and caloric restriction on the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems [Internet]. ScienceDirect. 2005 [cited 30 November 2019]. Available from:
  13. Li L. Chronic Intermittent Fasting Improves Cognitive Functions and Brain Structures in Mice [Internet]. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2013 [cited 30 November 2019]. Available from:
  14. Inman J. The Role of Sensory‐Specific Satiety in Attribute‐Level Variety Seeking [Internet]. Research Gate. 2001 [cited 26 November 2019]. Available from:
  15. There Are 80,000 Ways To Drink A Starbucks Beverage [Internet]. 2014 [cited 1 December 2019]. Available from:
  16. 100 Leading National Advertisers: 2002 edition index [Internet]. 2002 [cited 3 December 2019]. Available from:
  17. Definition of “sociology” from the Cambridge Dictionary. Available from
  18. Driving sustainable profitable growth [Internet]. 2016 [cited 26 November 2019]. Available from:
  19. Porter M. Proof that junk food advertising makes children overeat [Internet]. Essential Kids. 2018 [cited 3 December 2019]. Available from: