There is a general thinking that human body needs healthy diet to survive, while fasting is done mainly for political protest or religious reason. Otherwise, we regularly need fuel to let our body function properly and personal experience reinforced that theory.

However, the recent trending concept of fasting among diet and health conscious communities forced me to reconsider, Is this really beneficial for your body to consume heavy meals 2 or 3 times in routine?

An emerging diet plan called intermittent fasting suggests that eating less and deliberately incorporate the periods of fasting in your lifestyle has positive impacts on our body (1)



What is Intermittent Fasting?




It includes alternate fasting and eating cycles and presently intermittent fasting (IF) is one of the World’s most famous health and fitness trends. Rather than emphasizing on selection of food to be eaten as conventional diets, it only considers the time of the meals consumed. Consequently, members of intermittent fasting incorporate selected fasting and eating periods in their daily schedule. Therefore, it is the most beneficial and simple way to lose weight and improving health. Intermittent fasting has strong effects on human body and it helps to live longer.




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Work Mechanism



Intermittent fasting focuses on a diet strategy that includes extended fasting and alternating periods of eating. The purpose is to reduce or limit calorie intake and utilize the stored food or both (stored food and ingested food) for energy. These periods may vary in length. There are several different ways and methods to do intermittent fasting.

 The most common method involves 16-hour fast and 8-hours eating window, leaving breakfast and having first food at lunchtime. However, between lunchtime and dinner individuals eat normally, while in fasting time, non-caloric drinks like water, coffee and tea are allowed.

Second method 5:2 diet involves eating normal for 5 days in a week while have to consume 600kcal for rest of the days, while on an average a normal body consumes 2500kcal approx.

The Third one is Eat-Stop-Eat method involves 24 hours fasting once or twice in a week; this means you only have a single meal in 24 hours.


Intermittent Fasting Benefits


The first and obvious benefit of IF is weight loss. However, there are numerous benefits beyond this and people are aware of them since ancient times.
Therefore, we dive into them and explore under different heads to evaluate their legit.




Losing Weight and Belly Fat




Majority of people who try intermittent fasting are for the sake of losing weight and belly fat. (2)

Intermittent fasting speeds up hormone function to support weight loss. It lowers the insulin levels and improves the growth hormone levels thus increase the breakdown of body fat to utilize it for energy.

Short time fasting actually increase your metabolic rate which helps to burn even more calories (3)

Actually IF works on both sides, it increase your metabolic rate and burn more calories, on the other hand, it restricts your calories intake, thus fewer calories your body have to burn.   

According to the review of scientific literature published in 2014, intermittent fasting may reduce weight 3-8% in 3-24 weeks. (4)

According to one study review, intermittent fasting lessons muscle loss as compared to continues calorie restriction diet plans.

Therefore, considering all things intermittent fasting is an effective and safe way to lose weight and belly fat.



Lowers Insulin Resistance



Intermittent Fasting stabilizes blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes patients by reducing insulin resistance.

In one study on IF, blood sugar fasting levels have decreased by 3-6% and fasting insulin was 20-31% reduced (5)

According to a study on diabetic rats, it was revealed that IF protected kidney damage, one of the most serious complications of diabetes. (6)

What we conclude is, intermittent fasting is highly beneficial for the people who are at the risk of type 2 diabetes.

However, diabetic patients should exercise caution while trying IF, particularly patients on certain medications or those who are on insulin, as intermittent fasting may drastically reduce their blood sugar levels. Therefore, doctor advice is mandatory before going on IF.


Reduces Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in Body



Studies found that oxidative stress is one of the main contributing factors in aging and other chronic ailments. It creates free radicals in the body, which interact with the molecules of protein and DNA and destroy them.  

While intermittent fasting supports body resistance against oxidative stress (7)
In addition, intermittent fasting helps to reduce inflammation in the body; Experts say that excessive and often eating is one of the main causes of inflammation.


Improves Heart Health



Death rate due to heart disease has alarmingly shot up in recent years, root causes are lack of exercise, smoking and excessive use of junk food. With intermittent fasting develops a habit to control and restrict calories intake thus reduces the risk of heart disease.

Intermittent fasting also reduces the LDL cholesterol, stabilizes blood pressure and normalizes blood sugar levels (8)

However, more research is needed to prove how fasting can improve heart health, it is still yet not proved, what positive effect IF has on heart health?


Benefits The Brain



It is obvious that what benefits the body, benefits brain. Actually, brain and body perform well during fasting and when talking about brain, intermittent fasting improves the cognition function, memory, learning ability and alertness.
Various animal studies showed that IF helps to grow new nerve cells that boost the brain performance. (9)

Intermittent fasting and exercise contribute towards increased growth of protein in nerve cells called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).This protein plays an important role in boosting brain performance and increases resistance against stress.

Different animal studies have shown that IF benefits neurons health and supports them to resist against brain damage due to strokes.


Prolonged Life


One of the most amazing applications of IF is, it increases longevity and it is backed by studies.

An animal study have suggested that IF lengthen the lifespan in the same way as sustaining calorie restriction (10)

Studies on rats have shown that fasted rates lasted 36-83 % as compared to non-fasted rates. (11)

However, more research work is needed on humans to prove this fact.


Helps to Prevent Cancer



Intermittent fasting have been benefited to prevent cancer in many animal studies, (12) (13) IF have several positive effects on metabolism that is helpful to reduce the risks of cancer. Although, human studies are needed to prove this fact.

However, some evidence is found in human cancer patients reflecting that IF have decreased the effects of chemotherapy.


Conclusion



Intermittent fasting is one of most effective health strategies that can, not only save you from many terrible diseases but also saves your money. Intermittent fasting leaves positive impacts on each part of your body and it has been used from centuries.


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