6 Amazing Health Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting

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Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting promises to help with a range of health problems like diabetes and asthma and even Alzheimer's. With the possibility of improved insulin sensitivity, increased metabolic rate, and even weight loss and fat burn, there’s little reason to ignore this simple alternative to more rigorous diets or long-term fasts. As little as skipping a single meal on alternate days could help.

People fast for different reasons, religious or otherwise. If it is something you are considering for health- or weight-related reasons, there are some compelling reasons for you to give it a go! Unlike a constant low-calorie diet or an extreme diet that sees you cut out certain food groups like carbohydrates altogether, intermittent fasting intersperses normal eating with a meal skipped every now and again. It could also mean a day or two of fasting in between regular days. This makes it imminently doable and sustainable over the long term for health benefits ranging from weight loss to fighting inflammation.

Intermittent Fasting To Up Your Metabolic Health

Intermittent fasting or intermittent energy restriction is increasingly being used to improve metabolic health and achieve weight loss. It involves interspersing periods of either partial or total energy restriction with periods of non-restricted intake. In other words, you would fast for some time or limit intake to just some foods/drinks like fluids only, and then you would go back to normal eating for some period before restricting intake or fasting again.1

Fasting does not have to be an uphill task. In fact, when you go to sleep every night, you are in effect allowing your body to fast for the 8 hours that you sleep and until you have breakfast. This fasting period gives your body time to focus on some other processes that are restorative. There are some people who may choose to skip breakfast every day, allowing for a 16-hour gap between dinner and the next meal – something referred to as a 16/8 method. Others may fast for a certain day/days of the week. Whatever the approach you choose, here are some benefits of intermittent fasting you may be happy to hear about.

1. Reduces Inflammation

Your body experiences inflammation in response to chemicals and preservatives in food, consumption of trans fats or other inflammatory foods, and just from daily life and exposure to toxins and foreign substances like microbes. Chronic inflammation has been connected to a number of illnesses that plague people today, from Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and depression to arthritis, heart disease, and cancer.2

When you fast, it can help your body fight inflammation. Early research on this front is promising and could mean a lowered risk of inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, and other inflammatory conditions. As little as fasting for one meal – the 16/8 intermittent fasting method referred to earlier – can make a difference.3

2. Aids Weight Loss

Many people also try fasting as a means to lose weight. While long-term fasting may have different results, intermittent fasting, if done right, could actually help on this front. In one small study, researchers found that fasting completely (starvation) for 48 hours caused basal metabolism of the subjects to change significantly, with resting metabolic rate rising by about 3.6 percent on an average.4 In another piece of research, the metabolic rate, as measured by resting energy expenditure, rose by around 14 percent on the first day of a multi-day (84-hour) fast.

Because results appeared right with early fasting, intermittent fasting may allow you to benefit from this raised metabolic rate to burn off calories – without having to fast for long periods of time.5

3. Improves Insulin Sensitivity

Fasting intermittently could help improve insulin sensitivity and possibly even generate insulin-producing cells in diabetic pancreas that has impaired function. In one animal study, mice were put on an intermittent fasting diet with low-calorie, low-protein, low-carbohydrate but high-fat food intake on day 1, followed by three days of 10 percent of normal calorie intake per day. After the three-day fast they were allowed normal calorie intake for 10 days before the fasting cycle began again. Researchers found that their bodies began to regenerate insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, a finding that holds a lot of promise for diabetics.6

Just take care not to do this is for too long or too often. The key is “intermittent” fasting. If you constantly go on a fast, you may actually end up with more abdominal fat accumulation as a result of impaired morning glucose tolerance and delayed insulin response.7

4. Improves Asthma Symptoms

If you are asthmatic and overweight, going on a fast may improve your symptoms. This applies to those with milder forms of asthma. Researchers have found that meal skipping just one meal of about 400 to 500 calories every other day could help alleviate symptoms like breathing trouble. This alternate day intermittent fasting caused inflammation markers to reduce. Oxidative stress levels in the body also went down.8

5. Increases Fat Burn

Another reason for intermittent fasting to feature on your schedule is its possible fat-burning results. When you go on a fast, your body’s insulin levels drop significantly. This is said to trigger fat burning in the absence of glucose stores for energy. One small study of non-obese men and women found that fat oxidation rates increased after alternate day fasting.9

Human growth hormone levels also rise significantly after fasting.10 This hormone is said to help with fat burning and also with muscle gain. Research has shown that it can increase lean body mass and bring down fat mass in healthy seniors both male and female.11

6. Provides Neuroprotective Benefits

Short-term fasting, as you would experience in intermittent fasting, is said to have neuroprotective effects for the body. It does this by helping enhance or upregulate a process called autophagy, which is your body’s natural defense against infection, neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, and even malignancy. Some research now suggests that short-term restriction of food intake could offer an alternative to more expensive drug-driven treatments to achieve this goal of enhancing autophagy. So fasting could even be potentially therapeutic.12

Caution! Intermittent Fasting Is NOT For Everyone

Fasting of any kind is best undertaken under the guidance of a qualified dietician or nutritionist who can help you with your meal planning. Even something seemingly harmless as intermittent fasting that involves skipping just one meal now and again could be dangerous for some people. Here are some instances where fasting is probably not a good idea13:

  • If you are pregnant.
  • If you are diabetic or have insulin resistance or other blood sugar regulation problems you should always check with your doctor before trying any kind of fasting.
  • If you have any kind of eating disorder.
  • If you don’t sleep well.
  • If you have any other health problem that could endanger your life or worsen your condition if you skipped meals or didn’t eat at regular intervals.
  • If you are not an adult. Children with growing bodies have different nutritional needs and more active lifestyles than most adults. Intermittent fasting is probably not a good idea. If it is something required for religious reasons, it is best done with utmost care and with careful planning and under the guidance and with the consent of their parents.

References   [ + ]

1.Antoni, Rona, Kelly L. Johnston, Adam L. Collins, and M. Denise Robertson. “The effects of intermittent energy restriction on indices of cardiometabolic health.” Res Endocrinol (2014).
2.Foods that fight inflammation. Harvard Health Publications.
3.Genetic switch turned on during fasting helps stop inflammation. Salk Institute.
4.Mansell, P. I., I. W. Fellows, and I. A. Macdonald. “Enhanced thermogenic response to epinephrine after 48-h starvation in humans.” American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology 258, no. 1 (1990): R87-R93.
5.Zauner, Christian, Bruno Schneeweiss, Alexander Kranz, Christian Madl, Klaus Ratheiser, Ludwig Kramer, Erich Roth, Barbara Schneider, and Kurt Lenz. “Resting energy expenditure in short-term starvation is increased as a result of an increase in serum norepinephrine.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 71, no. 6 (2000): 1511-1515.
6.Fasting diet may help regenerate a diabetic pancreas. National Health Service.
7.Carlson, Olga, Bronwen Martin, Kim S. Stote, Erin Golden, Stuart Maudsley, Samer S. Najjar, Luigi Ferrucci et al. “Impact of reduced meal frequency without caloric restriction on glucose regulation in healthy, normal-weight middle-aged men and women.” Metabolism 56, no. 12 (2007): 1729-1734.
8.Johnson, James B., Warren Summer, Roy G. Cutler, Bronwen Martin, Dong-Hoon Hyun, Vishwa D. Dixit, Michelle Pearson et al. “Alternate day calorie restriction improves clinical findings and reduces markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in overweight adults with moderate asthma.” Free Radical Biology and Medicine 42, no. 5 (2007): 665-674.
9.Heilbronn, Leonie K., Steven R. Smith, Corby K. Martin, Stephen D. Anton, and Eric Ravussin. “Alternate-day fasting in nonobese subjects: effects on body weight, body composition, and energy metabolism.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 81, no. 1 (2005): 69-73.
10.Ho, Klan Y., Johannes D. Veldhuis, Michael L. Johnson, R. Furlanetto, William S. Evans, K. G. Alberti, and M. O. Thorner. “Fasting enhances growth hormone secretion and amplifies the complex rhythms of growth hormone secretion in man.” Journal of Clinical Investigation 81, no. 4 (1988): 968.
11.Blackman, Marc R., John D. Sorkin, Thomas Münzer, Michele F. Bellantoni, Jan Busby-Whitehead, Thomas E. Stevens, Jocelyn Jayme et al. “Growth hormone and sex steroid administration in healthy aged women and men: a randomized controlled trial.” Jama 288, no. 18 (2002): 2282-2292.
12.Alirezaei, Mehrdad, Christopher C. Kemball, Claudia T. Flynn, Malcolm R. Wood, J. Lindsay Whitton, and William B. Kiosses. “Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy.” Autophagy 6, no. 6 (2010): 702-710.
13.News analysis: Does the 5:2 fast diet work?. National Health Service.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

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