9 Science-backed Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting

Amritha K

Intermittent fasting is a method of eating by following regular short-term fasts. That is, you go between periods of eating and fasting. Intermittent fasting is not about what to eat but is all about the 'when to eat.'

Intermittent fasting involves eating all your meals of the day during a window of 8 hours. In other words, whatever you eat for the day, you eat between 2 PM and 10 PM and the rest of the day would be your fasting window [1].

There are many different types of intermittent fasting, such as the 16/8 or 5:2 methods. Several studies have supported the claim that intermittent fasting is extremely beneficial for one's health. Therefore, the current article will focus on exploring the way intermittent fasting can help improve one's health.

Take a look at some of the science-backed intermittent fasting benefits here.

1. Aids Weight Loss

Short-term fasting will help improve the metabolic rate of the body and also help increase the weight loss process. Majority of people adopt intermittent fasting as a way to shed the extra weight [2]. As intermittent fasting involves fewer meals, unless you compensate by eating extra after the fasting hours, it enhances hormone function to facilitate weight loss [3].

2. Speeds Up Metabolism

When your stomach is empty, your body has more time to regulate your digestive tract and promote healthy bowel movements [4]. This, in turn, improves your metabolism, and thus, helps you burn fat even when you are not doing any rigorous activities.

3. Improves Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin is the hormone responsible for decreasing your blood sugar levels. And it does this by stimulating glucose uptake by the cells of your body - termed as insulin sensitivity [5]. Individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes lose this ability and become resistant to insulin, which increases their blood sugar drastically [6]. And intermittent fasting can help reduce insulin resistance by improving your body's sensitivity to insulin [7].

4. Reduces Oxidative Stress

Intermittent fasting strengthens the body to fight against inflammation, oxidative stress and premature ageing, as the free radicals in the body are expelled out more easily [8]. Several studies point out that intermittent fasting may enhance your body's resistance to oxidative stress [9].

5. Improves Brain Function

Studies agree that intermittent fasting is good for one's brain health [10]. Intermittent fasting is known to boost brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BNDF) in your body, which improves the health of your neurons and nerve pathways, and also may protect your brain from developing Alzheimer's disease or Parkinsonism [11].

6. Boosts Immunity

When you are fasting, your body is not preoccupied with digesting food and regulating its movement through your intestines. This frees it up to attack the free radicals in your body and detox you from within, which prevents the onset of several diseases [12][13].

7. Removes Toxins

During the fasting phase, your body will get some time to expel toxins [14]. Studies say that those who drink juice during the fasting phase will be able to get rid of toxins that have been accumulated over a period of a week [15]. And those who drink water during the fasting phase may be able to get rid of toxins which were in the system since months [15].

8. May Improve Heart Health

Intermittent fasting may help avert the risk of high blood pressure, LDL cholesterol and blood sugar level that otherwise put the heart under a major risk [16].

9. May Prevent Cancer Risk

Since intermittent fasting is known to help reduce weight, it was suggested by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to make use of this as a form of adjunct cancer treatment. According to animal studies, intermittent fasting may help prevent cancer [17]. However, studies are ongoing to apply the mechanism in human beings.

Intermittent fasting was also linked to chemotherapy, suggesting that it helped reduce the side effects [18].

Side Effects Of Intermittent Fasting

Some of the common side effects of this fasting reported are hair loss, anxiety, stress and heartburn or reflux as a result of overeating [19].

On A Final Note…

If you have never fasted before, don't try fasting for 18 hours a day. You will inevitably fall sick. Instead, start with just 12 hours, and keep this period at night so you can have an early dinner by 7 and then fast throughout the night until breakfast the next morning [20].

You can slowly increase this duration and add more hours later according to your inconvenience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Can you drink during intermittent fasting?

A. Having coffee or tea during your fast should be just fine. As a general rule of thumb, if you drink something with less than 50 calories, then your body will remain in the fasted state.

Q. Can I drink lemon water while intermittent fasting?

A. Yes, a lemon only has about 2 grams of carbs.

Q. Does intermittent fasting slow metabolism?

A. It is believed that eating smaller meals 3-6 times per day, and by skipping meals your metabolism adapts by slowing down to conserve energy (starvation mode). However, newer studies are showing that this metabolic slow-down is more likely to occur when fasting is done for longer periods of time.

Q. What are the cons of intermittent fasting?

A. A few of the negatives associated with intermittent fasting are that it can be hard to stick long-term, may affect your social life, and could lead to some health issues.

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