The practice of ‘intermittent fasting’ has become very popular in recent times, as it helps people live a long and healthy life.
In simple terms, intermittent fasting is a popular method to restrict calorie intake to help you lose weight, which in turn will ward off several diseases and help you live a longer and healthier life.
Intermittent fasting is an umbrella term that covers different types of fasting schedules where calorie intake is restricted in whole or in part, either a couple of days a week, every other day or on a daily basis.
These are the three most popular methods of intermittent fasting:
- 16/8 Method: In this method, you skip breakfast and restrict the daily eating period to 8 hours. Then, fast for 16 hours.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: This method involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week.
- 5:2 Diet: In this method, you eat only 500 to 600 calories on 2 non-consecutive days of the week. On the other 5 days, you eat normally.
Note: Fasting may not be suitable for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Plus, people suffering from diabetes or other chronic diseases should consult their doctor before starting any type of fasting.
Here are some of the benefits of intermittent fasting.
1. Helps You Live Longer
Many people take up intermittent fasting as means to extend their lifespan.
A 2000 study published in Mechanisms of Ageing and Development analyzed the influence of short-term, repeated fasting on the longevity of female mice. The results showed that fasting mice survived significantly longer than the full-fed mice.
Another study published in 2014 in Cell Metabolism, researchers reviewed several studies and concluded that intermittent or periodic fasting in rodents protects against diabetes, cancers, heart disease and neurodegeneration. In humans, this type of fasting was found to help reduce obesity, hypertension, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
Thus, it can be concluded that intermittent fasting has the potential to improve health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases, which in turn can extend one’s life.
2. Helps You Lose Weight and Belly Fat
In this type of fasting, you eat fewer meals, which means you end up eating fewer calories. Additionally, it will increase your metabolic rate, which helps you burn even more calories.
Intermittent fasting can lead to loss of belly fat, the harmful fat in the abdominal cavity that is a risk factor for many diseases, such as diabetes, high cholesterol and heart problems.
A 2011 study published in Obesity Reviews reports that intermittent fasting caused less muscle loss as compared to continuous calorie restriction. This type of fasting is effective in decreasing body weight and fat mass.
A later 2015 study published in the International Journal of Obesity reports that intermittent fasting or alternate-day fasting may be an option for achieving weight loss and maintenance. However, such interventions need to be palatable and satiating and meet minimal nutritional requirements to ensure long-term safety.
3. Reduces Cardiovascular Risk
Intermittent fasting helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems. It helps improve the various risk factors that contribute to heart disease as it helps lower blood pressure, total and (LDL or the ‘bad’ cholesterol), and blood sugar levels.
It also helps reduce inflammatory markers of cardiovascular disease.
A 2014 study published in the International Journal of Health Sciences notes that intermittent fasting can have cardiprotective effects.
Plus, intermittent fasting helps restrict calories and reduce abdominal fat, which is linked to higher risk of developing heart disease.
4. Repairs Cellular Damage
Intermittent fasting also aids important cellular repair processes, such as removing waste material from cells.
Healthy cells are important to live a healthy life, but cells can become damaged due to oxidative stress. This can accelerate the aging process and cause many health problems.
Intermittent fasting is a safe way to prevent or repair cell damage from oxidative stress.
Fasting results in a small increase in free-radical production early on during fasting. The cells respond by increasing their levels of natural antioxidants to fight against future free-radical damage. This triggers cells to cope better with more severe oxidative stresses in the future.
This type of fasting even helps you live a longer life by changing gene expression.
A 2006 study published in Ageing Research Reviews reports that calorie restriction through intermittent fasting stimulates the production of protein chaperones, neurotrophic factors and antioxidant enzymes, all of which help cells cope with stress and resist disease.
Another study published in 2010 in Autophagy reports that short-term fasting represents a simple, safe and inexpensive means to promote potentially therapeutic neuronal response.