Intermittent fasting is when you eat during a specific period of time, and you fast the rest of the time.
There are many different types of intermittent fasting, such as the 16/8 or 5:2 methods.
Numerous studies show that it can have powerful benefits for your body and brain.
Here are 8 evidence-based health benefits of intermittent fasting.
1. Fasting Regulates Your Immune System
The practice of fasting allows the body to put more energy and focus into the process of effective immune regulation. Fasting while drinking water and cleansing beverages flush out the digestive system and reduce the number of natural microorganisms in the gut. The microorganism count is typically regulated by the immune system. So this allows the immune system to divert energy to other more important areas.
Intermittent fasting is a terrific regulator of the immune system as it controls the level of inflammatory cytokines that are released in the body.
Studies have shown that fasting reduces the release of these inflammatory mediators. The immune system modulation that intermittent fasting provides may also be helpful if you have moderate to severe allergies.
2. Intermittent Fasting Lowers Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes has become incredibly common in recent decades. Its main feature is high blood sugar levels in the context of insulin resistance. Anything that reduces insulin resistance should help lower blood sugar levels and protect against type 2 diabetes.
Interestingly, intermittent fasting has been shown to have major benefits for insulin resistance and lead to an impressive reduction in blood sugar levels.
In human studies on intermittent fasting, fasting blood sugar has been reduced by 3-6%, while fasting insulin has been reduced by 20-31%.
What this implies, is that intermittent fasting may be highly protective for people who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
However, there may be some differences between genders. One study in women showed that blood sugar control actually worsened after a 22-day long intermittent fasting protocol.
3. It Helps You Lose Weight Without Following a Diet
Research shows that counting calories and limiting your food options make dieting a chore and causes stress which often leads to abandonment of the diet, feelings of deprivation, uncontrolled cravings, and weight regain.
Adapting to intermittent fasting, a method of scheduled eating and fasting relies strictly on time.
4. Intermittent Fasting Keeps You Fit In The Long Term
Following an intermittent fasting diet may make it easier to maintain the weight you lost over the long term.
A two-part study compared the combined effects of a high-protein, intermittent fasting, low-calorie diet plan with a traditional heart-healthy diet plan. The results showed that while both diets proved to be equally successful in reductions in body mass index (BMI) and blood lipids (fatty acids and cholesterol) in obese men and women, those on the intermittent fasting diet showed an advantage in minimizing weight regain after one year.
5. Fasting Helps You Live Longer
Intermittent fasting increases your lifespan and slows aging is by manipulating mitochondrial networks. Mitochondria are the power generators in your cells — they produce most of the energy that’s needed for a cell to survive.
A 2017 study from Harvard University found that fasting kept mitochondrial networks fused together. That’s what keeps the mitochondria strong and able to do their job of processing energy — crucial for longevity and vibrant aging.
Studies in rats have shown that intermittent fasting extends lifespan in a similar way as continuous calorie restriction.
In some of these studies, the effects were quite dramatic. In one of them, rats that fasted every other day lived 83% longer than rats who didn't fast.
Although this is far from being proven in humans, intermittent fasting has become very popular among the anti-aging crowd.
Given the known benefits for metabolism and all sorts of health markers, it makes sense that intermittent fasting could help you live a longer and healthier life.
6. Intermittent Fasting Fights Oxidative Stress and Inflammation
Oxidative stress is one of the steps towards aging and many chronic diseases.
It involves unstable molecules called free radicals, which react with other important molecules (like protein and DNA) and damage them.
Several studies show that intermittent fasting may enhance the body's resistance to oxidative stress.
Additionally, studies show that intermittent fasting can help fight inflammation, another key driver of all sorts of common diseases.
7. It Regulates Your Body Clock
Circadian rhythm, also known as the sleep/wake cycle or body clock, is a natural, internal system that’s designed to regulate feelings of sleepiness and wakefulness over a 24-hour period. Research shows a hypothesis that intermittent fasting helps us to stick with our body’s circadian rhythm, and that can help with our metabolism.
Eating certain foods before bed has been linked to weight gain and sleep disturbances, especially when it causes acid reflux. Insulin sensitivity is increased during the day and we are less sensitive to insulin at night, the same goes for digestion.
Another study suggests that fasting can completely reset our circadian clocks. If you want to honor your circadian rhythm, you need to go to bed earlier and sleep so the body can repair itself—when you sleep at the right time it can be restorative.
8. Intermittent Fasting Improves Memory
Intermittent fasting improves learning and memory, another protective measure against serious neurodegenerative diseases.
A 2009 study of 50 elderly adults found that three months of caloric restriction boosted memory (measured by their ability to recall words).