Intermittent fasting is the best alternative to strict dieting.
“Calorie restriction has failed miserably in human trials because it’s so hard to stick to,” says gerontologist Rafael de Cabo of the U.S. National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, Maryland.
Many recent studies have shown that fasting is more beneficial to health, body, and brain than dieting.
In this article, we shall have a detailed analysis of intermittent fasting and their health benefits.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern where you eat in cycles between periods of eating and fasting.
The main concern here is about what time you should eat instead of what kind of foods you should eat.
Fasting naturally happens to all of us while we are sleeping, and the simplest way to take up extended fasting is to add a few more hours of fasting before and after sleep.
For example, you can have 16 hours of daily fasting schedule by eating your first meal at noon and last meal at 8 pm; that means you skip breakfast and snacks before noon and no caloric foods after 8 pm.
Eight hours eating and sixteen hours of fasting (16/8) is the most commonly followed IF method.
Adopting this method of fasting could appear difficult at the initial period, especially in dealing with the hunger pangs and energy needs of the body.
However, most people have reported that it is fairly easy to follow this fasting method; gradually the energy levels increase and feel very comfortable after a few days of fasting.
No caloric foods should be eaten during fasting but drinking water, calorie-free beverages, and supplements are permissible.
Studies and individual experiences have reported several health benefits associated with fasting.
The major benefits of fasting are such as increased longevity, increased insulin sensitivity and neuro-protection, stronger resistance to stress, improved endogenous hormone production, and better mental clarity.[2,3]
According to Dr. Michael Mosley – author of The Fast Diet book – planned fasting schedules not only help people to lose weight but offer several other health benefits. He says.”Studies of intermittent fasting show that not only do people see improvements in blood pressure and their cholesterol levels, but also in their insulin sensitivity.”
Types of Intermittent Fasting
There are different types or methods of intermittent fasting that has evolved through various studies and individuals trials.
Here are some of the most popular ones:
- 16 Hours Fasting: Fast for 16 hours each day – eating food only during 8 hours of the day between Noon and 8 pm.
- 24 Hours Fasting: This is usually done once or twice a week. Totally stop eating anything from dinner one day, until dinner the next day (a 24 hour fast).
- 500 Calories For Two Days/Week: During 2 days of the week, eat only about 500-600 calories.
In the rest of this article, we are going to discuss 9 important health benefits of intermittent fasting. All these benefits are based on info sourced from several independent study reports.
1. Intermittent Fasting Helps In Losing Weight
Most people take up the intermittent fasting schedule with the intention of losing weight.
The IF method is all about eating fewer meals and this leads to the intake of fewer calories. This method is sure to produce excellent weight loss results unless the person overeats during each meal.
One of the reviews published in Science Direct points out that the IF method can produce a weight loss of 3-8% over 3-24 weeks and help to lose lost 4-7% of waist circumference in the same period.
2. Intermittent Fasting Improves Brain Functioning And Prevents Alzheimer’s Disease
Intermittent fasting is good for improving the brain and mental health.
It improves several metabolic aspects that are closely linked to brain functioning; these metabolic factors include reduced inflammation, reduced oxidative stress, and a reduction in blood sugar levels and insulin resistance.
One particular rat study has given enough proof to show that intermittent fast can actually prevent or reduce the severity of Alzheimer’s disease.
There are various experimental reports that suggest that short-term fasts have the ability to reduce the severity of Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Intermittent Fasting Reduces Inflammation And Oxidative Stress
Most of the chronic diseases and faster aging are the results of oxidative stress.
In other words, oxidative stress occurs when the free radicals react with protein, DNA molecules and cause damages to them.
A number of study results have indicated the possibilities of preventing or reducing the impact of oxidative stress through intermittent fasting.
4. Intermittent Fasting Improves The Functioning Of Hormones And Cells
When you have not eaten food and the stomach is empty, the body quickly changes the hormone levels to access the stored fat in the body.
5. Intermittent Fasting Is Good For Type 2 Diabetes
One of the main causes of Type II diabetes is insulin resistance.
The high blood sugar levels can be normalized by removing or reducing insulin resistance.
Many of the study reports have highlighted one of the biggest benefits of intermittent fasting has its ability to bring down blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance.
The kidney damage that usually happens in severe cases of Type II diabetes can be prevented by fasting according to certain animal studies’ reports.
6. Intermittent Fasting Helps In Cell Repair And Recuperation Of The Body
Fasting has great benefits for cell repair and rejuvenation of the body. Planned schedules of fasting induce the body to be in autophagy mode, a process of waste removal from the cells. This process removes the dysfunctional proteins congregated inside the body cells by breaking them down and metabolizing.
7. Intermittent Fasting Improves The Health Of The Heart
Some of the study reports suggest that the health of the heart can be improved through a systematic fasting program.
There are reports that indicate a fewer incidence of heart attack among people who do intermittent fasting.
8. Intermittent Fasting Aids In Preventing Cancer
Many positive metabolic effects created by fasting are beneficial for reducing the risks of cancer.
It is reported by many cancer patients that intermittent fasting is beneficial for reducing the side effects of chemotherapy.
There is a lack of human studies to ascertain the possibilities of using ‘fasting’ as a proven preventive method to avoid cancer risks.
9. Intermittent Fasting Increases The Longevity Of Life
From numerous human examples, it is a proven fact that lean and slim people usually outlive fatty people.
In one of the rat studies, it was noted the rats that were on 24 hours fasting cycle extended the lifespan by 83% in comparison to the rats that were on a regular diet.
It is not sure how much of this rat study result will be applicable to human life. However, many people, who are keen on anti-aging solutions, have adopted intermittent fasting as a real solution to slower aging.