If you’re just hearing about intermittent fasting, you might be wondering if all the hype surrounding its health benefits is real. The short answer is yes. This dietary intervention has been practiced for as long as humanity has existed, and has many amazing benefits, including obvious results such as weight loss. Intermittent fasting has seen a spike in popularity, more so as a result of celebrities praising what it can do to your body, and mind.
What is intermittent fasting?
In simpler terms, intermittent fasting describes a practice where you eat a certain type of diet within a specific period, and then fast the rest of the time – more like a fasting and non-fasting cycle. But if we dig deeper, it’s a broad term that describes different types of diet methods that involve time-restricted dieting.
This is more bearable compared to whole day fasting and is easy to get used to. Typically, those who practice intermittent fasting do not eat for at least 14 consecutive hours per day – they eat for the rest of the remaining six to eight hours.
Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting Helps with Weight Loss and Belly Fat Burning
The primary goal of practicing intermittent fasting for most people is weight loss and to reduce the annoying belly fat. In fact, this type of fasting reduces the number of meals you take per day, and as a result, you end up eating fewer calories. Essentially, intermittent fasting drives results from both sides of the calories in, calories out scale. On the one hand, it boosts your metabolic rate, which is basically increasing calories out, while on the other hand, it reduces the amount of food you eat (reducing the number of calories in). One scientific review showed a three to eight percent weight loss over a period of between three to 24 weeks. This is a significant loss of weight without risks of side effects. The review also showed that the participants lost between four to seven percent of the harmful belly fat.
May Lower Your Risk of Diabetes
When you intermittently fast, you reduce the chances of insulin resistance, which is the main contributor to type 2 diabetes. Studies have proven that intermittent fasting reduces fasting blood sugar by three to six percent, and fasting insulin by 20 to 30 percent. Insulin resistance can lead to many other health complications and because fasting can help promote insulin sensitivity, it’s a cause worth trying.
Increases the Production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH)
The HGH, also referred to as ‘the fitness hormone’, is vital to maintaining our health, fitness, and longevity. It’s responsible for muscle growth and boosts fat loss by increasing your metabolic rate. Scientific evidence shows that fasting can raise the HGH levels by as much as 2,000 percent in men and 1,300 percent in women. Intermittent fasting improves the levels of HGH, which in turn builds muscles and helps you lose weight at the same time, and nothing can beat this.
Promotes the Repair of Cells
Cells play an important role in our health and keeping them in a healthy state is highly beneficial, especially in removing waste from our body’s cells.
Reduces Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
Inflammation can lead to the development of various diseases. Oxidative stress causes aging within the body, and this involves free radicals, which react with other compounds like our DNA, damaging them. The fact that intermittent fasting can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in our bodies shows just how important it is in both the short-term and long-term.
May Help Prevent Cancer
Cancer is a risky disease that’s among the leading causes of death today. Although there isn’t enough scientific evidence showing a direct relation between intermittent fasting and cancer reduction, numerous animal research have shown that fasting may help lower the risks for cancer. Other studies have also shown that intermittent fasting helps to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy in cancer patients.
May Help Improve Heart Health
There are various risk factors that increase your risk of heart disease, including high blood sugar, high levels of total and LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol, blood pressure and blood triglycerides, among others. Intermittent fasting can improve most of these risk factors, thereby lowering your risk of developing heart disease.
May Improve Brain Health
Practicing intermittent fasting promotes the growth of new neurons as well as protect the brain from damage. Studies on mice have shown that intermittent fasting increases the growth of nerve cells, which are beneficial for brain health. Further research shows that it reduces inflammation in the brain, thus preventing certain neurological conditions. Additionally, intermittent fasting reduces the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and Parkinson’s disease.
Numerous studies now support the health benefits associated with intermittent fasting although there isn’t clear evidence showing how it works in humans. What’s clear, though, is the fact that it helps in weight loss and management. Intermittent fasting is easier to stick to compared to other traditional methods of weight loss, and it effectively limits your calories intake and revs up fat burning. However, before you start fasting, consult with your doctor because it may be dangerous if you have certain conditions such as gut issues and pregnancy.
All images by Pixabay