If you’ve read about the benefits of intermittent fasting but aren’t sure if it’s right for you, the quick answer is: maybe.
Simply put, intermittent fasting is a diet that alternates periods of eating with periods of not eating.
In addition to its ability to help you blast through a weight loss plateau and burn fat, there is an impressive list of therapeutic benefits:
1. Intermittent Fasting Can Help You Lose Weight and Belly Fat
Many of those who try to use the benefits of intermittent fasting are doing it in order to lose weight. Generally speaking, intermittent fasting will make you eat fewer meals.
Unless if 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. (Healthline.com)
2. Intermittent Fasting Changes The Function of Cells, Genes, and Hormones
When you don’t eat for a while, several things happen in your body. For example, your body initiates important cellular repair processes and changes hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible.
Here are some of the changes that occur in your body during fasting:
- Insulin levels: Blood levels of insulin drop significantly, which facilitates fat burning.
- Human growth hormone: The blood levels of growth hormone may increase as much as 5-fold. 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. (NCBI Source)
3. Reduce Insulin Resistance, Lowering Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
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 lead to an impressive reduction in blood sugar levels.
In human studies on intermittent fasting, fasting blood sugar has been reduced by 3-6%, while fasting insulin has been reduced by 20-31%. One study in diabetic rats also showed that intermittent fasting protected against kidney damage, one of the most severe complications of diabetes. (Science Direct)
4. Can Reduce Oxidative Stress
One of the benefits of intermittent fasting is its ability to lower stress in the body. Furthermore, oxidative stress is one of the steps towards aging and many chronic diseases.
It also involves unstable molecules called free radicals, which react with other important molecules (like protein and DNA) and damage them. Similarly, several studies show that intermittent fasting may enhance the body’s resistance to oxidative stress. (Science Direct)
5. Intermittent Fasting May be Beneficial For Heart Health
It is 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, total and LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, and blood sugar levels. (IBIMA Publishing) This is one of the benefits of intermittent fasting that requires more research, but just the thought is worth the try.
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 Alzheimer’s disease. (NCBI Source) There are so many surprising and wonderful benefits of intermittent fasting!
7. Intermittent Fasting May Help Prevent Cancer
Fasting has been shown to have several beneficial effects on metabolism that may lead to a reduced risk of cancer. Although human studies are needed, promising evidence from animal studies indicates that intermittent fasting may help prevent cancer.
There is also some evidence on human cancer patients, showing that fasting reduced various side effects of chemotherapy. (NCBI Source)
8. Intermittent Fasting is Good For Your Brain
Intermittent fasting improves various metabolic features known to be important for brain health, which also includes reduced oxidative stress, reduced inflammation and a reduction in blood sugar levels and insulin resistance.
Several studies in rats have shown that intermittent fasting may increase the growth of new nerve cells, which should have benefits for brain function.
It also increases levels of a brain hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a deficiency of which has been implicated in depression and various other brain problems. (NCBI Source)
9. May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
A study in rats shows that one of the benefits of intermittent fasting may be it delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or reduce its severity. In a series of case reports, a lifestyle intervention that included daily short-term fasts was able to significantly improve Alzheimer’s symptoms in 9 out of 10 patients.
Furthermore, animal studies also suggest that fasting may protect against other neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.
10. May Extend Your Lifespan
One of the most exciting benefits of intermittent fasting may be its ability to extend lifespan. Studies in rats have shown that intermittent fasting extends lifespan in a similar way as continuous calorie restriction.
In some of these studies, the effects were quite dramatic. In one of them, rats that fasted every other day lived 83% longer than rats who didn’t fast.
11. May Reduce the Likelihood of You Getting Sick
This is one of the most useful benefits of intermittent fasting that affects your everyday life.
In a study done on mice that were infected with salmonella, intermittent fasting lowered intestinal and systemic bacteria; therefore, boosting their intestinal immune system. Most importantly, it’ll keep me at work to continue making money.
12. Intermittent Fasting Boosts Mood and Motivation
Studies show that fasting and calorie restriction improves anger, tension, confusion, and overall mood in aging males. High levels of ghrelin are associated with anti-depressant effects.
So, there you go, one of the many benefits of intermittent fasting is that it can lead to happier days overall. What else can you ask for?
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13. Fasting Reduces Inflammation
Fasting produces ghrelin in the body, therefore, inflammation is suppressed. Furthermore, intermittent fasting reduces pro-inflammatory cytokines and immune cells in the body.
Fasting for long intervals at night can reduce systemic inflammation. Most importantly, one of the big benefits of intermittent fasting is that it reduces the risk of degenerative diseases connected to an inflammatory response in the central nervous system. (NCBI Source)
14. Increased Ghrelin Levels May Slow the Onset of Parkinson’s Disease
Ghrelin increases the concentration of dopamine in an area of the brain where the decline of dopamine cells leads to Parkinson’s Disease.
Most importantly, this increase of dopamine keeps you at a more enjoyable level overall. Sounds like a great benefit in a very long list of awesome benefits of intermittent fasting. (NCBI Source)
15. Intermittent Fasting Improves Learning and Memory
Talk about useful benefits of intermittent fasting. First of all, a study demonstrated that mice on intermittent fasting had better learning and memory than mice with a regular eating schedule.
Furthermore, studies suggest that learning may be best when the stomach is empty during the day because ghrelin levels are high.
16. Protects Against Autoimmune Disease
Fasting every three days has been effective in reducing autoimmunity and promoting regeneration. Studies have also shown that periods of fasting reversed symptoms of multiple sclerosis in animals.
Fasting prevents and improves systemic lupus erythematosus, which is an inflammatory disease caused when the immune system attacks its own tissues (NCBI Source).
17. Intermittent Fasting Improves Sleep
Just as we sleep better when we power down our electronics and spend some time relaxing before bed, our digestives systems similarly need a little bit of time to wind down before going into sleep mode (NCBI Source).
Of all the positive benefits of intermittent fasting, this one is probably my favorite. I mean, who doesn’t love more sleep?
18. Allows You to Maintain Your Performance in Workouts
Intermittent fasting has no drastic effect on your daily functioning and sports performance. Intermittent fasting does not promote drowsiness or lack of vigilance.
This method of fasting preserves lean body mass, therefore, your body is able to maintain the muscle built after a workout. The cellular effects of intermittent fasting are similar to the effects of physical exercise (NCBI Source).
19. Intermittent Fasting Heals Your Skin
There is evidence that intermittent fasting may aid in skin wound healing by jump-starting those repairing cells.
Furthermore, fasting has been effective in alleviating contact dermatitis and chronic urticaria; therefore, scrapes and cuts heal at a faster rate (NCBI Source). The effects of intermittent fasting can assist with fighting acne. I’ll sign up for that! Who’s with me?
20. Digestion Improved & Decreased Bloating
Eating less helps prevent overeating, which improves your digestion. Stephanie Ferrari, a registered dietitian with Fresh Communications, adds, “You’ll be drinking more water, which is often the unsung hero to many digestive issues.” When you’re eating less time during the day, you’ll feel less bloated, and have less gas and discomfort. Stephanie notes that “drinking more water will help keep your digest regularly and will also keep the bloat away!” (Enzymedica)
21. Intermittent Fasting Kicks Cravings to the Curb
One of my favorite benefits of intermittent fasting is its ability to help curb sugar cravings if you do it long enough. Therefore, when you’re eating less, you’re bound to eat less sugar. The less sugar that’s eaten, the less that’s craved (Source). It’s simple math. Intermittent fasting keeps you from eating too much sugar.