The benefits of intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting offers the tantalizing promise that changing mealtimes, and not the meals, can be good for you. But what are the dos and don’ts of eating less frequently?

1. Changes the function of hormones, cells, and genes

Here are some of the changes that occur in your body during intermittent fasting:

  • Insulin levels. Blood levels of insulin drop significantly, which facilitates fat burning (1Trusted Source).
  • Human growth hormone (HGH) levels. The blood levels of human growth hormone (HGH) may increase dramatically. Higher levels of this hormone facilitate fat burning and muscle gain, and have numerous other benefits.
  • Cellular repair. The body induces important cellular repair processes, such as removing waste material from cells .
  • Gene expression. There are beneficial changes in several genes and molecules related to longevity and protection against disease .

2. Can help you lose weight and visceral fat

Many of those who try intermittent fasting are doing it to lose weight .

Generally speaking, intermittent fasting will make you eat fewer meals.

Unless you compensate by eating much more during the other meals, you’ll end up taking in fewer calories.

Additionally, intermittent fasting enhances hormone function to facilitate weight loss.

3. Can reduce insulin resistance, lowering your risk for type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes has become a very common diagnosis in recent decades.

Its main feature is high blood sugar levels in the context of insulin resistance.

Anything that reduces insulin resistance should help lower blood sugar levels and protect against type 2 diabetes.

Interestingly, intermittent fasting has been shown to have major benefits for insulin resistance and to lead to an impressive reduction in blood sugar levels

4. Can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body

Oxidative stress is one of the steps toward aging and many chronic diseases .

It involves unstable molecules called free radicals. Free radicals react with other important molecules, such as 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 many common diseases.

5. May be beneficial for heart health

Heart disease is currently the world’s biggest killer .

It’s known that various health markers (so-called “risk factors”) are associated with either an increased or decreased risk of heart disease.

Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve numerous different risk factors, including:

  • blood pressure
  • sugar levels
  • blood triglycerides
  • total and LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • inflammatory markers

6. Induces various cellular repair processes

When we fast, the cells in the body initiate a cellular “waste removal” process called autophagy .

This involves the cells breaking down and metabolizing broken and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells over time.

Increased autophagy may provide protection against several diseases, including cancer and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

7. May help prevent cancer

Cancer is characterized by uncontrolled growth of cells.

Fasting has been shown to have several beneficial effects on metabolism that may lead to reduced risk of cancer.

Promising evidence from animal studies indicates that intermittent fasting  may help prevent cancer. Research in humans has led to similar findings, although more studies are needed .

There’s also some evidence showing that fasting reduced various side effects of chemotherapy in humans .

8. Has benefits for your brain

What’s good for the body is often good for the brain as well.

Intermittent fasting improves various metabolic features known to be important for brain health.

Intermittent fasting helps reduce:

Several studies in mice and rats have shown that intermittent fasting may increase the growth of new nerve cells. Which should have benefits for brain function.

9. May help prevent Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the world’s most common neurodegenerative disease.

There’s no cure currently available for Alzheimer’s, so preventing it from showing up in the first place is critical.

Studies in rats and mice show that intermittent fasting may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s or reduce its severity.

10. May extend your lifespan, helping you live longer

One of the most exciting applications of intermittent fasting may be its ability to extend lifespan.

Studies in rodents have shown that intermittent fasting extends lifespan in a similar way as continuous calorie restriction.

Intermittent fasting has also been shown to increase the lifespans of fruit flies .

In some of these studies, the effects were quite dramatic. In an older study, rats that were fasting every other day lived 83% longer than rats who weren’t fasting .

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