7 Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Despite its recent surge in popularity, fasting is a practice that dates back centuries and plays a central role in many cultures and religions. Defined as abstinence from all or some foods or drinks for a set period of time, there are many different ways of fasting.
In general, most types of fasts are performed over 24–72 hours.
Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting, ranging from a few hours to a few days at a time.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to have many health benefits, from increased weight loss to better brain function.
Here are 7 health benefits of intermittent fasting:
1. Intermittent Fasting Promotes Blood Sugar Control by Reducing Insulin Resistance
Several studies have found that fasting may improve blood sugar control, which could be especially useful for those at risk of diabetes. In human studies on intermittent fasting, fasting blood sugar has been reduced by 3-6%, while fasting insulin has been reduced by 20-31%.
Decreasing insulin resistance can increase your body’s sensitivity to insulin, allowing it to transport glucose from your bloodstream to your cells more efficiently. Coupled with the potential blood sugar-lowering effects of fasting, this could help keep your blood sugar steady, preventing spikes and crashes in your blood sugar levels.
2. Intermittent Fasting Can Reduce Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in The Body
Oxidative stress is one of the steps towards aging and many chronic diseases. It involves unstable molecules called free radicals, which react with other important molecules (like protein and DNA) and damage them.
Several studies show that intermittent fasting may enhance the body’s resistance to oxidative stress. Additionally, studies show that intermittent fasting can help fight inflammation, another key driver of all sorts of common diseases.
3. Intermittent Fasting May Enhance Heart Health by Improving Blood Pressure, Triglycerides and Cholesterol Levels
Heart disease is considered the leading cause of death around the world, accounting for an estimated 31.5% of deaths globally. Switching up your diet and lifestyle is one of the most effective ways to reduce your risk of heart disease. Some research has found that incorporating fasting into your routine may be especially beneficial when it comes to heart health.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve numerous different risk factors, including blood pressure, total and LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers and blood sugar levels. However, a lot of this is based on animal studies. The effects on heart health need to be studied a lot further in humans before recommendations can be made.
4. Intermittent Fasting May Boost Brain Function and Prevent Neurodegenerative Disorders
Though research is mostly limited to animal research, several studies have found that fasting could have a powerful effect on brain health. One study in mice showed that practicing intermittent fasting for 11 months improved both brain function and brain structure. Because fasting may also help relieve inflammation, it could also aid in preventing neurodegenerative disorders. In particular, studies in animals suggest that fasting may protect against and improve outcomes for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s. However, more studies are needed to evaluate the effects of fasting on brain function in humans.
5. Intermittent Fasting Aids Weight Loss by Limiting Calorie Intake and Boosting Metabolism
Theoretically, abstaining from all or certain foods and beverages should decrease your overall calorie intake, which could lead to increased weight loss over time. Generally speaking, intermittent fasting will make you eat fewer meals. Unless you compensate by eating much more during the other meals, you will end up taking in fewer calories.
Additionally, intermittent fasting enhances hormone function to facilitate weight loss.
Lower insulin levels, higher growth hormone levels and increased amounts of norepinephrine (noradrenaline) all increase the breakdown of body fat and facilitate its use for energy. For this reason, short-term fasting actually increases your metabolic rate by 3.6-14%, helping you burn even more calories.
In other words, intermittent fasting works on both sides of the calorie equation. It boosts your metabolic rate (increases calories out) and reduces the amount of food you eat (reduces calories in).
6. Intermittent Fasting Could Delay Aging and Extend Longevity
Several animal studies have found promising results on the potential lifespan-extending effects of intermittent fasting. A study in rats shows that intermittent fasting may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or reduce its severity. However, current research is still limited to animal studies. Further studies are needed to understand how intermittent fasting may impact longevity and aging in humans.
7. Intermittent Fasting May Aid in Cancer Prevention and Increase the Effectiveness of Chemotherapy
Animal and test-tube studies indicate that fasting may benefit the treatment and prevention of cancer. In fact, one rat study found that intermittent fasting helped block tumor formation. Similarly, a test-tube study showed that exposing cancer cells to several cycles of fasting was as effective as chemotherapy in delaying tumor growth and increased the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs on cancer formation. Unfortunately, most research is limited to the effects of fasting on cancer formation in animals and cells. Despite these promising findings, additional studies are needed to look at how fasting may influence cancer development and treatment in humans.
Given the known benefits for metabolism and all sorts of health markers, it makes sense that intermittent fasting could help you live a longer and healthier life.
If you want more information about intermittent fasting or need help planning a healthy diet, contact me for more information. Also, be sure to seek the advice of your doctor before starting intermittent fasting, fasting, or any dietary program.