Intermittent fasting, or the idea of eating in a specific window of time and fasting for other times, can work in many ways. This time-saving technique allows you to lose those last few pounds, or to give your body a boost if you need an extra energy boost. It’s also great for those who are trying to improve their health, or who have health concerns that restrict their food choices.
While intermittent fasting is becoming increasingly popular, not many people know what it is. The idea behind this practice is that you take the approach of your body being used to no food for a certain period of time, by simply eating on a lesser scale. This can be done for a few hours each day, or all day long.
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The top six advantages of intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting has a broad range of possible advantages, including slower aging, weight reduction, and illness prevention. However, there is one crucial caution to keep in mind: if you fast too long or too hard, the benefits will decrease.
- Intermittent fasting has been shown to help with a variety of health issues, including diabetes, high blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides), and inflammation.
- Fasting isn’t a mystical experience. Fasting, although beneficial, is not always superior to other strategies of calorie restriction, such as conventional caloric restriction.
- Some individuals aren’t supposed to fast. We’ll discuss who and why in this chapter.
Isn’t there a long list of possible health advantages to intermittent fasting? It’s very lengthy.
Intermittent fasting (IF) has been shown in a number of trials to help treat or prevent a variety of diseases, including cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
It has the potential to assist individuals in losing weight.
It may even help with brain health.
That may give the impression that IF is a one-size-fits-all solution, which is why we’d want to open this chapter by emphasizing two major caveats.
First and foremost, intermittent fasting can only improve your health so much.
It isn’t a straight line connection. You won’t feel better and better till you’re immortal if you fast longer and harder.
However, if there is space for improvement, you will most likely notice some modifications. If you’re already doing well, on the other hand, you may not get much better, perhaps because your metabolic and other health indicators are already excellent.
Caveat #2: Many of the advantages are contingent on intermittent fasting.
Many of the advantages of IF may be reversed by limiting calories or nutrients for an extended period of time.
Let’s look at the possible advantages of IF now that those caveats are out of the way.
Benefit #1: Intermittent fasting may help to slow down the aging process.
We can’t avoid the fact that we’re all going to become older.
However, we can slow down our aging process, and fasting may be one method to do so.
Fasting seems to delay cellular aging.
What precisely is cellular senescence, and why should you be concerned?
Senescence is a broad term that describes a state or process of degradation. When we speak about a cell’s senescence, we imply that it has reached the stage where it can no longer divide and regenerate.
When our cells die, we experience the following symptoms:
- They cease to develop and repair.
- They oppose a dignified and useful death (called apoptosis).
- They produce tissue-damaging, pro-inflammatory substances.
- They boost protein synthesis (the production of proteins) and glycolysis (the breakdown of carbohydrates) (the breakdown of glucose).
- Their telomeres (the ends of their chromosomes) shrink, indicating genetic harm.
Senescent cells are now useful to some extent. They may, for example, aid in the suppression of cancers or the enhancement of our immunity.
However, as we age and senescent cells collect, they begin to cause issues including inflammation, chronic illnesses, metabolic malfunction, slow recovery, and most of the other unpleasant physical symptoms we associate with “getting older.”
Senescence is unavoidable, although it may be controlled. That implies we have the option of speeding it up or slowing it down.
We can make it go faster by doing things like:
- Toxic substances in the environment
- DNA deterioration
- radicals (non-conventional)
- prolonged and severe stress (another reason to emphasize IF’s “intermittent” feature)
- a few medicines
With IF.1, we may be able to slow it down.
We’ll need to define a few more important words to figure out why.
Let’s start with apoptosis, often known as programmed cell death. Apoptosis is an important component of staying healthy, particularly as we become older.
Other, less severe ways to clean up cells include:
- Autophagy is the process by which cells clean up and recycle damaged or malfunctioning cellular material.
- Mitophagy: Self-digestion is triggered by mitochondrial malfunction.
Surprisingly, senescent cells seem to be immune to these natural cleaning mechanisms. They continue to exist despite the fact that they are no longer useful.
Apoptosis, autophagy, and mitophagy are all increased by fasting and calorie restriction.
Reduced inflammation and/or increased lifespan may be two of the possible advantages.
Fasting has been shown to enhance cellular signaling.
The health and lifespan of our cells are dependent on accurate chemical communication. When this breaks down, our cells break down as well.
The following are some of the main signaling pathways that IF may affect:
- AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) signaling: AMPK is an energy sensor that controls health and lifespan by coordinating a vast, integrated signaling network. Low oxygen (hypoxia) and low energy both activate AMPK. Activating AMPK (for example, through fasting) seems to extend longevity and enhance general health.
- Antioxidant signaling: Cellular oxidation is a normal component of metabolism that is often compared to rusting. Our bodies contain antioxidant mechanisms that help us get rid of rust, but as we become older, these systems slow down and break down. Fasting may enhance overall cell signaling by increasing the expression of key genes in the antioxidant system.
- Pathway of insulin/insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1): Insulin and IGF-1 are required for proper body development and anabolism (a critical element in muscle building). However, if these hormones are too high for an extended period of time, we are more likely to develop illnesses linked to growth, such as cancer. Downregulating (or lowering) the activity of this pathway, as shown in IF, seems to prolong longevity.
Intermittent fasting may enhance brain health, according to benefit #2.
IF may help to delay cognitive degeneration by:
- Inflammation reduction
- Aiding in the management of blood sugar and insulin levels
- The aging of brain cells is being slowed.
- Neuroplasticity (the brain’s capacity to create new synaptic connections) is stimulated.
- Neuronal preservation
IF has also shown promise in the treatment of brain disorders and damage, such as that caused by a stroke or a concussion. However, not all of the evidence is encouraging. 2,3
Furthermore, since some individuals experience brain fog when fasting, cognitive function may not increase throughout the fasting time. To sort it all out, further study is required.
Intermittent fasting may help to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Our insulin sensitivity (how responsive our cells are to the action of insulin) and glucose management may increase during fasting because we have considerably less circulating glucose. (See Carbs, Insulin, and Weight Loss for additional information.)
In individuals with type 2 diabetes, a short case study revealed promising outcomes. 4 Three individuals with diabetes who had had it for ten to twenty-five years fasted three to four times a week. They ate one meal (evening) on fasting days and two meals (breakfast and lunch) on non-fasting days (lunch and dinner). They were able to totally cease taking insulin within one to four weeks.
However, not all research, particularly large-scale ones, produce such striking findings. 5
Depending on the kind of fasting and the health of the individuals who undertake it, glucose control may improve very little or not at all.
IF, on the other hand, may be one of the safest ways of increasing blood sugar control for most individuals who have difficulties with glucose regulation (apart from those with type 1 diabetes). This is particularly true when IF is coupled with other good behaviors that may influence glucose control, including as eating a high-quality food, exercising regularly, and sleeping sufficiently.
If you have type 2 diabetes and want to try intermittent fasting, speak to your doctor about it.
Benefit #4: Intermittent fasting may lower cancer risk.
Cancers are basically uncontrolled, unregulated growth, and fasting may help to prevent cancer development by:
- Cellular growth is being slowed.
- Reducing the amount of nutrients and energy available.
- Growth factors like IGF-1 are decreasing.
- Increasing cellular cleaning and repair.
- Some oncogenes’ expression is being reduced (cancer genes).
- Our ability to respond to cancer therapy medicines is improving.
Warning: There is no evidence that fasting alone may prevent or cure cancer. However, when used in conjunction with other methods, it may be able to assist someone fight illness.
Furthermore, weight cycling (also known as yo-yo dieting) seems to raise the risk of cancer. 6 Another reason to approach IF with caution and moderation, avoiding drastic changes in body weight and food consumption.
Intermittent fasting may enhance heart health, according to benefit #5.
IF has the potential to protect the heart in a variety of ways.
C-reactive protein levels may drop.
C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in the blood are a measure of inflammation and a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. According to several studies, when individuals fast, their CRP levels drop. 7,8
It’s possible that your cholesterol and lipid profiles may improve.
IF seems to enhance our cholesterol and lipid profile in general by:
- Total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol, and triglycerides should all be reduced.
- Increasing the amount of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good” cholesterol) in the body.
The effect, on the other hand, seems to be linked to body weight. IF seems to have minimal advantage in individuals who are already healthy or slim.
It’s possible that your heart rate and blood pressure may drop.
IF seems to enhance heart rate variability (HRV), a stress indicator, by lowering resting heart rate. It may also decrease blood pressure by triggering the production of brain chemicals that activate our nervous system’s soothing parasympathetic “rest and digest” branch. 9
Benefit #6: Intermittent fasting may help you lose weight.
Through a variety of processes, IF may make it easier for individuals to lose weight. However, the link between IF and fat reduction is complicated.
As a consequence, in Chapter 5, we’ll go considerably further into this advantage.
Some individuals should refrain from fasting. We’d like to share some information with you.
Even though it seems that they might benefit from IF, there are certain individuals who should not miss meals, fast for 24 hours, or drastically reduce their calorie intake.
They are as follows:
- People with health problems who need to eat on a daily basis.
- Anyone who has struggled with an eating problem in the past. Fasting is basically an eat/don’t eat situation, very similar to the binge/restrict cycle.
- People who have a hard time dealing with hunger. If they fast or eat less, for example, they will overeat later.
We suggest a softer approach for these three groups of people: just eating when hungry, which is a technique we teach in our Coaching program. (We refer to it as IF Lite.)
When individuals try it, they frequently say they’re not hungry even if the clock says it’s “mealtime.” Instead of eating breakfast when they first wake up, they may have their first meal at 9:30 or 10 a.m. Lunch might be at 2 p.m. instead of noon.
They may also skip it and have a lunch and supper combination around 4 p.m.
The argument isn’t that a 10 a.m. breakfast followed by a 4 p.m. lunch/dinner is the ideal eating plan for everyone—it isn’t.
What we mean is that the ideal eating time varies from person to person, day to day, and meal to meal. People may find out the best time to eat—for them—by listening to their hunger signals.
Before you begin fasting, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Although IF has a lot of potential, the amount of research is far from definitive.
Animals have been used in a lot of IF studies. Animal research is interesting and useful, but it cannot predict what will happen to people who follow the same procedures.
Humans are not all created equal. Human studies aren’t always representative of you as a person. Will it be of assistance to you? It’s up to you to figure it out. (See Chapter 8 for more.)
The advantages of IF may come from eating “less badly” or losing weight. Processed foods, poor in nutrients, and rich in energy/calories are common in industrialized nations’ diets. We are really stacking the deck in favor of IF when we compare research participants undergoing IF to individuals eating normal Western diets without fasting.
In the same way, reducing even a little amount of body fat may enhance our general health and metabolic markers. People who use intermittent fasting (IF) tend to consume less calories overall, and therefore lose weight, according to numerous research. So, are the health advantages related to IF in general or to having a lower body fat percentage? It’s not really clear.
In the end, there’s still a lot to discover about the advantages of IF.
That includes the link between intermittent fasting and weight reduction, which we go into in detail in the following chapter.
To see the information sources mentioned in this article, go here.
- Emerging Anti-Aging Strategies – Scientific Basis and Efficacy, Shetty AK, Kodali M, Upadhya R, Madhu LN. 2018 Dec;9(6):1165–84 in Aging Dis.
- Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease. N Engl J Med. 2019 Dec 26;381(26):2541–51. de Cabo R, Mattson MP.
- MCL Phillips, MCL Phillips, MCL Phillips, MCL Phillips, MCL Phillips, MCL Phillips, MCL Phillips, MCL Phillips [Internet] Nutrients [2019 Oct 17;11] (10).
- S. Furmli, R. Elmasry, M. Ramos, and J. Fung. Intermittent fasting is a therapeutic alternative to insulin for individuals with type 2 diabetes. [Internet] BMJ Case Rep. 2018;2018;2018;2018;2018;2018;2018;2018;2018;2018
- Calorie Restriction and Intermittent Fasting: Impact on Glycemic Control in People With Diabetes, Ganesan K, Habboush Y, Dagogo-Jack S. Spectr Diabetes 2020 May;33(2):143–8.
- Weight cycling and cancer: evaluating the evidence of intermittent calorie restriction and cancer risk. Thompson HJ, McTiernan A. Cancer Preventive Research, vol. 4, no. 4, 2011, pp. 1736–1742.
- Interleukin-6, C-reactive protein, and biochemical markers during extended intermittent fasting. Aksungar FB, Topkaya AE, Akyildiz M. 2007 Mar 19;51(1):88–95 in Ann Nutr Metab.
- Xiao Qiao Qiao Qiao Qiao Qiao Qiao Qiao Qiao Qiao Qiao Qiao Qiao Qiao Qiao Qiao A comprehensive review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials on the effects of intermittent fasting diets on plasma concentrations of inflammatory biomarkers. 79-80:110974 in Nutrition, November 2020.
- B. Malinowski, K. Zalewska, A. Wsierska, M. Malinowski, M. Malinowski, M. Malinowski, M. Malinowski, M. Malinowski, M. Malinowski, M. Malinowski, M. Malinowski, M. Malinowski, M. Malinowski, M. Malinowski, M. Mal An Overview of Intermittent Fasting in Cardiovascular Disorders. [Internet]. Nutrients. 20.03.2019;11 (3).
Intermittent fasting is a popular trend that’s sweeping the medical and fitness community, and for good reason. According to a study done by researchers at the University of Illinois, intermittent fasting has some potent benefits, including increased fat burning, a reduction in body fat, and even improved blood sugars.. Read more about intermittent fasting benefits by hour and let us know what you think.
This article broadly covered the following related topics:
- benefits of intermittent fasting
- is intermittent fasting healthy
- what to eat during intermittent fasting
- intermittent fasting for weight loss
- is intermittent fasting good for you