Fasting is an ancient practice. It’s thought to have begun with Hippocrates, “the father of medicine, ” in the fifth century. But many religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam practiced fasting centuries before this. Fasting is when you reduce or stop eating for a certain period for religious or health reasons. Recently, intermittent fasting has become a popular weight loss trend. Intermittent fasting involves eating for a certain amount of hours during the day. According to science, there are many health benefits of fasting.
What is intermittent fasting?
An associate professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois in Chicago developed the concept of intermittent fasting. There are different methods of intermittent fasting. You can eat a certain number of hours daily, such as sixteen hours fast with eight hours of permitted time to eat. Or you can fast two days per week and eat regularly the other five days. Whichever method you choose, you are likely to experience the benefits of fasting by restricting your food intake.
Science reveals the ten benefits of intermittent fasting
Here are ten benefits of fasting that you should know about.
Benefits of Fasting #1 – Lose weight
One of the main benefits of fasting is weight loss. Many people find intermittent fasting helps them lose weight, especially belly fat. That’s because the focus is on when you eat rather than what you should eat. Of course, eating a healthy diet during the allotted hours is essential, but this diet is less restrictive than many diets. You can skip eating low fat or low carbs or restricting your calorie count. As long as you eat a balanced diet, you should lose weight when you fast.
Benefits of Fasting #2 – Improves heart health
Studies show that fasting provides cardiovascular benefits. Intermittent fasting lowers your risk for certain heart conditions such as
- High blood pressure
- Lowers your cholesterol
- Reduces oxidative stress in your heart
- Reduces inflammation that can lead to atherosclerosis
Researchers say fasting improves your chances if you have heart disease that leads to a cardiac event, such as an interruption of your heart’s function or blood flow.
Benefits of Fasting #3 – Improves a prediabetic condition
If you have a prediabetic condition, fasting can reverse it. The CDC reports that approximately 96 million adults in the United States have a pre-diabetic condition. This is a whopping 38% of the population of the United States. Being prediabetic means, blood sugar levels are higher than usual.
You don’t have type2 diabetes, but unless you make lifestyle changes, you will develop the disease. Prediabetes can cause damage to your kidneys and heart. The good news is that getting type2 diabetes isn’t inevitable. Intermittent fasting is safe and can help you lose weight and get your diet under control to help prevent getting type 2 diabetes. Choose fresh produce such as colorful vegetables, fruits, high-fiber grains, and lean meats.
Benefits of Fasting #4 – Helps you burn stored fat
Intermittent fasting triggers weight loss, especially your stored belly fat. When you fast, it starts a metabolic process. This process causes your body to burn glucose, its main energy source. When this happens, your body burns the stored fat for energy. How do you know if your body is burning fat? If you fast for weight loss, you can tell your body is burning fat when:
- You’re not feeling hungry all the time
- You feel a heightened sense of well-being
- You have less pain
- Your blood pressure goes down
Of course, you can burn stored fat by staying active and doing heart-pumping exercises. The more aerobic exercise you do, the faster you’ll lose body weight. Try physical exercises such as:
Benefits of Fasting #5 – Can reduce your chance of cancer
Some researchers say that fasting may help lower your risk of tumor growth. This decrease is because fasting deprives the cancer cells of certain nutrients it needs to grow. This makes the cancer cells more vulnerable, so chemotherapy treatments are more effective.
Of course, you should check with your doctor before fasting long-term if you have cancer. But short-term calorie limitations may be worth trying. The downside of fasting is appetite suppression, a side effect of cancer treatment. Talk to your dietitian before you start intermittent fasting to avoid losing weight.
Benefits of Fasting #6 – Helps you live longer
Researchers believe that one benefit of fasting is less disease, resulting in longer life. Intermittent fasting is, in many researchers’ opinion, healthier than eating low carb, because fasting helps your GH levels. GH hormone oversees the effects of growth hormones related to your bones and tissues and enables you to maintain healthy lean muscle mass. Maintaining your GH levels help lower your risk of chronic disease and extend your lifespan. As you age, your body naturally declines, affecting cell growth and production. Fasting helps your cells maintain their function longer. Intermittent fasting and a healthy lifestyle of healthy eating and exercise promote good health.
Benefits of Fasting #7 – Benefits your brain
When you fast, you get rid of the stored glucose, increasing your body’s ability to burn fat. This fat-burning process is called ketosis. Being in ketosis increases your energy and improves your concentration and focus. Overall, you have healthier brain function. Plus, researchers say intermittent fasting can help you avoid neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease. Skipping breakfast every day could be the future recommendation of doctors to treat these and other neurological disorders.
Benefits of Fasting #8 – Lowers your blood sugar
Intermittent fasting improves your insulin sensitivity which causes lower insulin requirements. This results in improved blood sugar levels shortly after you eat. Keeping your blood sugar levels in a good range as much as you can help prevent long-term health problems such as
- Vision loss
- Kidney disease
- Heart health
It also increases your energy and improves your mood. Of course, it’s essential not to let your blood sugar levels drop too low. This is called hypoglycemia. Talk to your naturopath about what is the normal range for blood sugar.
Benefits of Fasting #9 – Reduces inflammation
Another benefit of fasting is lower inflammation levels in your body. It’s normal to experience inflammation when you’re injured, but if you suffer from chronic inflammation and pain, it can lead to not getting the proper exercise you need, which may cause you to gain weight. Intermittent fasting helps produce an anti-inflammatory effect on your body. It limits inflammation and boosts your body’s immune response, and improves your body’s circulating glucose and lipid levels.
Benefits of Fasting #10 – Healthier gut
Fasting affects your gut microbes. Reducing food intake gives your gut a rest and helps balance out your entire digestive tract. Intermittent fasting is thought to help repair gut microbial communities. Researchers believe restricting food helps repair your gut lining so it can prevent inflammatory toxins from leaking into your bloodstream.
Is there a downside to intermittent fasting?
Of course, intermittent fasting has its limitations. It’s only as good as you make it. Here are some suggestions on the downsides of fasting you may not have thought about.
- You need to eat healthily: Of course, eating healthy isn’t a downside, but if you plan to junk food during the hours you can eat, you will undermine the benefits of fasting. If you want to try intermittent fasting, be prepared to change your diet so you can be sure to maximize the health benefits of fasting. If you don’t change your diet, you can gain weight by eating too high of calorie foods.
- You’ll lose weight slowly: You won’t lose weight quickly on this diet like other diets. You may lose half a pound a week. It’s essential to remain consistent so you don’t end up with a yo-yo effect of losing weight than gaining weight.
- Be aware of medication and fasting: If you take medications that require taking them with food, you must consider how to do this safely. Also, certain medications’ effectiveness can be lost if you don’t take the correct time of the day. Not taking meds at the right time can interfere with your sleep, blood pressure, or energy levels.
Intermittent fasting is not for everyone
Fasting may not be healthy for you if you have certain health conditions or diseases. It’s always best to consult with your naturopath before you reduce your daily intake of calories for a certain amount of time each day. Fasting may not be safe for anyone who
- Has an eating disorder
- Is underweight
- Has type 1 diabetes
- Take medication that controls their type 2 diabetes
- Is pregnant
- Is breastfeeding
- Recent surgery
- Has a fever or is sick
- Takes warfarin
- Suffers from mental health issues
Final thoughts on the benefits of intermittent fasting
Fasting isn’t new. It’s been around for centuries. The many benefits of fasting have caught the attention of researchers today. They say that besides losing weight, fasting helps you lose stored belly fat, live longer, lower your risk of heart disease and improve your brain function. What’s not to like about these things? Of course, when you choose intermittent fasting, it’s not a license to eat junk food during designated hours. You still need to eat a healthy diet and stay physically active. If you haven’t tried fasting, now may be a good start.