Every so often, a new eating plan pops up and becomes a trend among a large section of the population. While some are unsustainable fads with dramatic results, others turn into a lifestyle for people looking to slim and lead a healthy and fit lifestyle.
You have probably heard of intermittent fasting as one of the easiest ways to lose weight. This eating plan works by reducing your eating window, thus helping you consume fewer calories than you are expending. Plenty of research has shown that doing this consistently might help improve key weight loss markers, such as BMI and waist circumference.
But weight loss is just one of the many health benefits of intermittent fasting. Let’s explore other evidence-based benefits to look forward to when intermittent fasting correctly.
Know Before You Start
Intermittent fasting is a time-restricted diet in which you move from a period of eating normally to a period of voluntary fasting or reduced calorie intake. While other dietary regimens focus on what you eat, IF emphasizes when you eat.
This form of fasting originated in the 1940s. Researchers investigating the effects of calorie restriction for a few hours on rats found that they appeared to live longer. Over the years, experts have developed around ten variations of intermittent fasting, making it easily accessible to everyone, including people who have never fasted.
The 12-hour is a popular intermittent fasting for beginners. In this schedule, you eat all three meals in 12 hours of the day and fast for the remaining 12 hours. Experienced fasters looking to shed off fat quickly often prefer extreme forms of intermittent fastings, such as the 16/8, OMAD, and the warrior diet.
There are intermittent fasting side effects to consider, like hunger, headaches, fatigue, dehydration, and mood changes. And while it’s not recommended for those who are pregnant, have diabetes, or are under 18 years, intermittent fasting is generally safe for most disease-free adults.
Powerful Intermittent Fasting Benefits Besides Weight Loss
It Can Reduce the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular is a general term for a group of health conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels. Underlying chronic inflammation is one of the triggers for atherosclerosis, which increases the risk of heart and circulatory disease. This chronic inflammation is often caused by elevated insulin levels and fat cells stuffed with excess fat.
Intermittent fasting might help reduce this inflammation by improving the body’s response to insulin. Insulin helps move the glucose in your blood into the body cells for energy. Insulin also triggers the storage of glucose in the liver and muscles. Another way intermittent fasting helps protect cardiovascular health is by raising high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol.
It Can Help Prevent Some Cancers
It’s easy to understand how intermittent fasting may help reduce cancer risk. Scientists say that cancer occurs when there’s a glitch in the cellular processes that control cell growth. When this happens, cells multiply and spread uncontrollably, leading to the formation of tumors.
One way intermittent fasting reduces the risk of cancer is by preventing excessive weight gain or reversing the progression of obesity. Being overweight is linked to 40% of the types of cancers in the US.
A study on bi-monthly intermittent fasting showed a reduction in the incidence of cancer in mice. Yet another fairly recent study shows that fasting may boost cancer treatment.
Intermittent fasting is thought to help with cancer by:
- Fostering conditions that inhibit cancer cells’ survival and growth
- Balancing nutritional intake
- Promoting the production of T cells that destroy cancerous cells
- Triggering autophagy (the process of breaking down and reusing old and damaged cells)
It May be the Secret to Better Brain Health
Scientists have just started to scratch the surface regarding intermittent fasting and brain health. But there are some early research results suggesting that intermittent fasting could help improve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy, among other conditions.
Multiple animal studies show that intermittent fasting may enhance memory by boosting the production of new brain cells. In a recent study involving humans, the researchers concluded that fasting (whether continuous or intermittent) may enhance memory function by regulating adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN). They added that this may further help in preventing cognitive decline.
On top of that, intermittent fasting may increase the brain’s ability to withstand oxidative stress. This promotes your overall brain health while potentially lowering your risk of brain disorders.
It May Help You Sleep Better
Sleep disruption is a typical intermittent fasting side effect. It’s particularly common among beginners and is often linked to increased cortisol levels. These temporal sleep problems may also be due to the introduction of new eating patterns.
Studies have shown that intermittent fasting may help improve sleep quality in one week.
Regarding how intermittent fasting helps improve sleep quality, one theory is that IF decreases insulin levels. When the last meal is timed before darkness falls, your melatonin levels increase, making it easy to drift off to rest and stay in a deep sleep longer.
Another theory is that intermittent fasting helps realign your circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour internal clock that controls essential functions, such as the sleep-wake cycle. When your circadian rhythm is in sync with the environment, you fall asleep quickly and enjoy quality and refreshing sleep.
Intermittent fasting is one of the best tools for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But it starts with picking a sustainable fasting schedule and being consistent. Switching from eating at least three meals daily to periodic fasting will make you feel hungry and low on energy. Take it easy and give your body time to adjust as you figure out the best intermittent fasting method for your lifestyle and health needs.
Also, while intermittent fasting is safe for most healthy and well-nourished adults, we don’t recommend it to anyone. Talk with your healthcare provider before starting intermittent fasting if you are pregnant or suffer from type 1 diabetes, kidney stones, a weak immune system, an eating disorder, or other medical conditions.
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