Intermittent fasting is a growing practice that’s often suggested for weight loss. But what is it exactly?
Intermittent fasting, or IF, is using cycles of fasting and eating to improve metabolic health and control your diet. It’s not about what you eat, but when. Instead of eating three meals a day (and probably, snacks in between), you fast, or abstain from food, for a period of time and then consume all of your necessary calories during the rest of the time. These fasting periods can be for a few hours each day or for a whole day or two each week. It’s a great way to reset your metabolism and limit the number of calories you eat.
But IF isn’t good for just weight loss. Recent studies have revealed that it positively affects other functions of the body too. Here are ten amazing benefits of intermittent fasting that prove IF isn’t just about losing weight.
Benefit #1 Healthy Weight Loss
The most common reason people try IF is for weight loss, and studies show it works. As long as you don’t overeat during your eating periods, intermittent fasting will decrease overall calorie intake in a healthy, controlled way. Fasting also decreases the amount of sugar in your blood, which means your body produces less insulin and more norepinephrine.
This change in hormones allows the body to break down existing fat and use it more efficiently for energy. The combination of fewer calories consumed and the burning of excess fat means a higher metabolic rate which means weight loss!
Benefit #2 Anti-Aging Help
We’d all like to turn back the clock a little, and with intermittent fasting, you just might be able to just that! Cell damage over the years leads to aging and many chronic diseases. Some of this damage, called oxidative stress, occurs when unstable molecules called free radicals attack the molecules in the body’s cells.
Fortunately, IF seems to help prevent free radical damage. Scientists haven’t quite figured it out, but it seems that fasting puts cells into survival mode and induces them to replace unhealthy cell mitochondria with healthy ones, reducing free radical damage and keeping your cells healthier longer. Since all of your body tissues are composed of cells, healthier cells mean a healthier you and increased longevity!
Benefit #3 Good Heart Health
Fasting studies have shown that IF can improve many of the risk factors associated with heart disease, including high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol levels, high blood triglyceride levels, and high blood sugar levels. If periodic fasting can ease precursors to heart disease, it stands to reason that it can help prevent the disease itself!
Benefit #4 Reduced Insulin Resistance
We mentioned before that fasting affects insulin levels to aid weight loss, but lowered insulin levels and blood sugar levels also help guard against type 2 diabetes. Eating too much sugar, as we tend to do in our modern carb-heavy diets, causes insulin levels to rise and creates the hormonal imbalance that leads to diabetes. Intermittent fasting helps keep those levels low so the body doesn’t develop the insulin resistance that precurses diabetes.
Benefit #5 Cancer Prevention
Scientists are still studying the cancer-fighting benefits of intermittent fasting, but so far the news seems good. It appears that IF can prevent cancer because of certain changes it instigates in the body, such as decreased blood glucose production, immune system support, and increased production of tumor-killing cells. This is great news for anyone concerned by their risk of cancer!
Benefit #6 Inflammation Reduction
Chronic inflammation in the body is associated with a wide variety of diseases and conditions, from gastrointestinal diseases to asthma to cancer and more. Controlling your diet is one way to reduce inflammation, as eating less fat and sugar can reduce the leukotrienes found in inflamed cells.
Studies found that the changes in cell metabolism caused by fasting also reduced these leukotrienes and thus inflammation. Less inflammation means you feel better and avoid chronic diseases.
Benefit #7 Good Brain Health
I’ve already discussed some of the positive changes your body experiences as you practice intermittent fasting, and all of these aid in brain health too. Reduced inflammation, blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, and oxidative stress are all good for your brain.
Some studies indicate that fasting allows levels of a hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) to increase. BDNF deficiency has been linked to depression and other brain problems, implying that IF could help people with depression.
Benefit #8 Alzheimer’s Prevention
Recent studies show that daily short-term fasting helped improve symptoms in 9 out of 10 Alzheimer’s patients. The reasons why haven’t been identified, but it may be connected to the benefits to the brain I discussed above.
And the benefits aren’t limited to just Alzheimer’s disease but appear to extend to other neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s as well.
Benefit #9 Induces Cell Repair Processes
I’ve mentioned how intermittent fasting affects cellular processes a few times already. Any time you change how you eat you change how your cells act too, and so far it seems that scientists have found beneficial changes to cell activity when practicing IF.
When fasting, your body goes into “survival” mode, which causes your cells to use energy more efficiently. This induces them to dispose of waste and repair themselves in a process called autophagy. During autophagy, your cells will break down dysfunctional proteins that have built up over time and inhibit ideal cellular function. It is believed that increased autophagy helps prevent degenerative diseases throughout the body.
Benefit #10 Extended Lifespan
This benefit kind of sums up all of the other benefits. If intermittent fasting reduces the risk of life-threatening diseases like heart disease, diabetes, cancers, and Alzheimer’s, then it automatically adds years to your life.
Furthermore, IF seems to aid cell function, keeping you looking and feeling younger longer. If anything can keep the building blocks of your body healthy and prevent chronic disease, it’s going to extend your life, and IF has been shown to do all of these things!
Intermittent fasting is a great way to lose weight, but while you’re losing pounds you may also be taking steps to reduce the risk of deadly diseases and support cell functions to extend your life. Fasting may not always be the easiest way to take control of your health, but these 10 amazing benefits of IF are a great incentive to take the plunge and practice some diet self-discipline. Everyone wants to live a long, healthy life and IF is one lifestyle change you can start today to achieve that goal.
Bio: Author Mariam Kathet is a blogger and infopreneur who writes on various topics, including health and wellness. At present, she works on behalf of Yuri Elkaim.
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