What are the Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
If you’re not a fan of dieting, intermittent fasting is a simple alternative that doesn’t involve calorie counting or starvation. In fact, this powerful and popular approach is a proven, effective way to lose weight while also reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
To be frank, there’s nothing really new about this way of eating. For one thing, our ancestors rarely had access to food 24/7 like we do today. Not only that, fasting has been an important part of many global religious traditions for centuries.
Research shows that intermittent fasting can do wonders for your health. For example, a new review evaluated the advantages and limitations of intermittent fasting in fighting obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Study authors found that overweight or obese individuals with diabetes who fasted on consecutive or alternate days lost more weight, while also experiencing enhanced heart health.
In other words, intermittent fasting showed therapeutic potential even when total calorie intake per day did not change, or was only slightly reduced.
According to experts, there are three major mechanisms by which intermittent fasting benefits your body:
- It increases insulin sensitivity along with mitochondrial energy efficiency, thereby retarding aging and disease - which are associated with loss of insulin sensitivity and declined mitochondrial energy.
- It reduces the accumulation of oxidative radicals, preventing oxidative damage to cellular proteins, lipids and nucleic acids that are normally seen in aging and disease.
- It induces a cellular stress response in which cells turn on genes that increase their capacity to cope with stress and resist disease and aging.
It has long been known that restricting calories in certain animals can increase their lifespan by as much as 50 percent. More recent research suggests that sudden and intermittent calorie restriction provide the same health benefits as constant calorie restriction.
According to health experts, the basic format of intermittent fasting alternates days of ‘normal’ calorie consumption with days when calorie consumption is severely restricted.
This can be done on an alternating day basis. More recently a 5:2 strategy has been developed, in which 2 days each week are classed as ‘fasting days’. On these days, fewer than 600 calories are consumed by men and fewer than 500 calories are consumed by women.
Importantly, this type of intermittent fasting has been shown to be as or more effective than continuous modest calorie restriction when it comes to weight loss, improved insulin sensitivity and other health biomarkers.
Not only that, intermittent fasting appears to be easier to stick to when compared to regular dieting - so perhaps it’s time to make a New Year’s resolution today?