Intermittent Fasting, also called IF, is hot amongst dieters worldwide. There are many reasons for IF’s popularity. This diet affects most, if not all, systems of your body. You lose weight, improve your response to metabolic disorders like diabetes, lower LDL Cholesterol, blood pressure, and ditch the ugly stomach fat. Phew! And, you live longer and age slower!
Before we dig deep into the health benefits of IF, let’s take a look at what intermittent Fasting is.
Intermittent Fasting is a diet that focuses not on what to eat, but when to eat. It is a way of eating rather than a diet. IF works by making you eat only during a certain time. It designates a specific time of fasting and for eating.
IF is a type of time-restricted feeding in which you eat only in a designated period of eight hours. This means you have your breakfast later in the day and your dinner earlier in the evening, say by 7 pm.
Fasting, as you know, is an age-old concept and is great for health and wellness. It allows your body to use up its stored fat when you fast. And that’s what IF does too.
Intermittent Fasting has made an insurgence thanks to new and very promising research. The heartening news is that the benefits of IF are real. And there is nothing iffy about IF. Read on to know the 12 specific ways it can improve your health.
Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Research has shown without any doubt that IF can help decrease bad cholesterol and insulin levels in the blood. It can also slow aging, cause weight loss, and reduce inflammation markers inside your system, linked to serious diseases like cancer.
It also improves sleep and digestion and gets rid of pains like bloating and gas.
Here are the 12 main benefits of IF: –
- IF Causes Weight Loss
This is the main reason that people switch to Intermittent Fasting. Any type of IF (there are many versions) leads to weight loss.
The crux of the matter is related to how our bodies use glucose stored by the liver for energy. The time required for your body to shift to burning stored fat from using glucose is 10-12 hours. When you are eating normally, your body uses glucose for energy taken from your meal. The fat in your meal is stored in the body fat tissue.
But what happens during fasts is that your body’s glucose stores are depleted very fast, and the stored fat is broken down and used for energy.
The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has many documented studies that show that IF can cause a weight loss within the range of 1.3 to 8 percent.
- IF Reduces Blood Pressure
IF can reduce elevated blood pressure. Studies have proved this. IF has been linked to an increased or greater reduction in systolic blood pressure (the lower number).
Unhealthy blood pressure levels can increase your risk of getting heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke.
- IF can Reduce InflammationMarkers
IF can reduce inflammation levels. During the fasting period, inflammatory markers are lower than usual, according to numerous studies.
- IF Lowers ‘Bad’ Cholesterol
LDL is the bad cholesterol that can raise your risk of stroke and heart disease. IF lowers LDL and also brings down the levels of triglycerides, a type of fat that causes plaques in arteries.
- IF Improves Digestion
Intermittent Fasting can improve digestion. It reduces bloating and gas.
- IF Boosts the Functioning of Your Brain
IF improves concentration levels. It can fight the decline in memory that comes with aging because it improves the connections in your brain, and it can also reduce amyloid plaques that happen in Alzheimer’s. It also reduces inflammation inside the CNS, reduces oxidative stress and blood sugar.
- IF can Protect You Against Cancer
Studies show that alternate-day Intermittent Fasting can reduce your risk of cancer. It may decrease the risk of you developing lymphoma. It can also limit the survival of tumors and the slowing down of the spread of cancer cells.
- IF can Increase the Cleaning Out of Damaged Cells
Your body gets rid of damaged cells during IF. This detoxification that happens due to halting of eating allows your body to heal and get rid of junk inside body cells that can accelerate aging.
- IF Reduces Insulin Resistance
Intermittent Fasting makes your body more receptive to insulin. It can stabilize blood sugar levels in people with type-2 diabetes too.
Insulin resistance is a marker of type-2 diabetes. Fasting causes insulin levels to fall, and this is how IF can reduce the risk for type- 2 diabetes as the insulin levels are normalized.
This is why nutritionists advise that people with type-2 diabetes should approach IF with caution. It can lower their need for insulin or diabetic medication and this increases their risk for low blood sugar, which can also land them in a coma.
Always check with your health provider before trying IF if you have diabetes.
- IF Lowers the Risk of Heart Disease
When insulin levels in your body drop, your heart attack risk falls. Congestive heart failure is the foremost cause of death amongst people with type-2 diabetes.
- IF Fights Aging
Intermittent Fasting increases your lifespan. This is mainly because Fasting builds resistance to age-related diseases like degenerative inflammatory diseases.
- IF Improves Sleep
If you finish your last meal by 4 pm or 6 pm, you have many hours before you go to bed. This way, you improve the quality of your sleep. Having your dinner in the evening means you’ll have digested your dinner by the time you hit the bed, which means better sleep.
Going to sleep with a full stomach can lead to bad sleep. It can cause acid reflux or heartburn, which can lead to disturbed sleep.
Another theory is that IF regulates the circadian rhythm, which affects your sleep patterns. If your circadian rhythm is regulated, you’ll fall asleep easily and wake up feeling sharper.
Another thing that begs a mention is that most research related to the health benefits of Intermittent Fasting are animal studies or ones conducted using a small sample size. We need larger studies to be sure about the health benefits of IF.
It also seems that most health benefits of Intermittent Fasting like lowering of bad cholesterol and weight loss disappear once you stop IF.
Doing IF Safely
A gradual decrease in the hours and days of restricted eating over four months will make sure that you are not faced with the ill effects of restricted eating.
Experts also recommend that you decrease the number of calories consumed on your fasting days gradually to remain fit and healthy.
Also, if you start this diet, you must take care to eat healthy foods that include whole grains and healthy fats and protein. You should stay away from junk foods and limit saturated fats, sugar and refined carbohydrates like in pasta.
You can’t eat whatever you want on the days that you are allowed to eat normally during IF as this can lead to disordered eating and what’s called eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia. You should also remember to stay well-hydrated during the days you fast.
Children, underweight or malnourished people, and those with a history of eating disorders should not do intermittent Fasting at all.