CNN - Abstaining from food for 16 to 18 hours a day could be key to treating a variety of health conditions -- even if you've got to train yourself to push past the hunger.
A review of past animal and human studies in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that intermittent fasting can reduce blood pressure, aid in weight loss and improve longevity.
The report functions as a road map of sorts for physicians to prescribe fasting as a method of prevention or treatment for obesity, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Study author Mark Mattson, a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, hones in on two types: Daily time-restricted feeding (eating 6-8 hours a day and fasting for 16-18 hours) and 5:2 intermittent fasting (fasting two days a week, usually capping a fasting day at 500 calories).
The catch? Most Americans don't intermittently fast (the norm is three meals a day plus snacks) and thus physicians are less inclined to consider fasting a solution to a broad range of health conditions, according to the review.
Because the research is relatively new, the report advises physicians to monitor their patients throughout intermittent fasting and gradually increase the duration and frequency of fasting to guide their transition.