Over the past several years, taking regularly-scheduled breaks from eating — in other words, intermittent fasting — has become something of a phenomenon. High-profile advocates such as mega-star podcaster Joe Rogan and Emmy-winner Hugh Jackman have brought the concept of intermittent fasting for health into the public consciousness, publicizing their experiences and the positive effect that IF has had in their lives. But does intermittent fasting really live up to the hype? Is fasting really good for your health, or is it an unhealthy option long-term?
When it comes to fasting and its health benefits, the research is clear. Whether you follow the popular 5:2 diet, a 16:8 plan or even fast on a mere 14:10 schedule, intermittent fasting can have a profound positive effect on your health in a variety of spheres.
Health Benefits of Daily Intermittent Fasting
Today’s world of always available, 24/7 food choices is an extremely recent development. Until relatively modern times, human beings lived a feast-or-famine life, enduring periods of food scarcity on a regular basis. In fact, our bodies are perfectly adapted to deal with just such interludes of deprivation — to survive and thrive during all parts of the feast-or-famine cycle.
The modern world, however, offers such abundant food that we are forever stuck in “feast” mode without the balancing influence of “famine.” And this, many experts believe, maybe at the heart of many of our 21st-century ills, and the reason that intermittent fasting — a conscious choice to refrain from food for a period of time — can have such a powerful effect on health.
Research shows that intermittent fasting —in essence, feast or famine on a micro-scale — can have a positive effect on the following health issues and diseases:
- Brain health. In animal studies at least, intermittent fasting appears to protect against the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. It may also have the effect of improving memory and cognitive function; it stimulates the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain associated with memory and the first area affected by Alzheimer’s.
- Heart health. Stroke, coronary artery disease, and other cardiovascular problems are some of the leading causes of death worldwide, and intermittent fasting can have a dramatic effect on many of the factors involved in cardiovascular disease. Not only is intermittent fasting an effective method for losing weight (excess weight being one of the key risk factors for heart disease), it can also help decrease blood pressure, lower cholesterol and even reduce the risk of having a stroke.
- Weight loss. Intermittent fasting can achieve the same amount of weight loss as more restrictive low-calorie diets, but may be easier for many people to stick with — especially long-term.
- Insulin resistance. Studies show that practicing intermittent fasting can increase your body’s sensitivity to insulin, even in people who have some degree of insulin resistance.
- Diabetes. Intermittent fasting may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, and for those who already have the disease IF can reduce blood sugar and even help you regain some degree of insulin sensitivity.
Intermittent fasting can also be a boon to your fitness regimen, helping you build muscle mass while promoting fat loss. It helps reduce systemic inflammation, which is a component of virtually all chronic diseases. Some studies even suggest that intermittent fasting may help fight cancer.
We have created a guide to Intermittent Fasting and health and wanted it to be a reliable reference to all the health benefits that fasting can bring. Enjoy your journey!