1Department of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB T2N 4N1, Canada.
2Institute of Translational Pharmacology, National Research Council of Italy (CNR), Via Ugo La Malfa, 153, 90146 Palermo, Italy.
3Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB T2N 4N1, Canada.
4Snyder Institute of Chronic Diseases, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB T2N 4N1, Canada.
Intermittent fasting is a non-pharmacological dietary approach to management of obesity and metabolic syndrome, involving periodic intervals of complete or near-complete abstinence from food and energy-containing fluids. This dietary strategy has recently gained significant popularity in mainstream culture and has been shown to induce weight loss in humans, reduce gut and systemic inflammation, and improve gut microbial diversity and dysbiosis (largely in animal models). It has been hypothesized that intermittent fasting could be beneficial in the management of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, given the condition's association with obesity. This review summarizes protocols, potential mechanisms of action, and evidence for intermittent fasting in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. It also highlights practical considerations for implementing intermittent fasting in clinical practice. A search of the literature for English-language articles related to intermittent fasting or time-restricted feeding and liver disease was completed in PubMed and Google Scholar. Potential mechanisms of action for effects of intermittent fasting included modulation of circadian rhythm, adipose tissue and adipokines, gut microbiome, and autophagy. Preclinical, epidemiological, and clinical trial data suggested clinical benefits of intermittent fasting on metabolic and inflammatory markers in humans. However, there was a paucity of evidence of its effects in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. More clinical studies are needed to determine mechanisms of action and to evaluate safety and efficacy of intermittent fasting in this population.