Intermittent fasting (IF) is currently one of the most popular health and fitness trends worldwide.
Last update: 28th May 2020
Here are some of the changes that occur in the body during fasting:
Blood sugar levels & diabetes: Insulin sensitivity improves and the insulin level decrease. Lower insulin levels make stored body fat more accessible (Trusted Source: 1).
Cellular repair: During fasting, our cells initiate cellular repair processes. These include autophagy, during which cells digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins that accumulate inside the cells (Trusted Sources: 1, 2).
These changes in hormone levels, cell function and gene expression are responsible for the health benefits of IF.
Weight loss is the most common reason for people to try IF (Trusted Source: 1).
IF lowers insulin level and increases growth hormone levels. Due to these hormonal changes, fasting can increase the metabolic rate by 3.6-14% (Trusted Sources: 1, 2).
A study reviewed in 2014 showed that IF can assist weight loss of 3-8% over a period of 3-24 weeks, which is a significant result compared to other weight loss studies (1).
According to the same study, people also lost 4-7% of their waist circumference, indicating a significant loss of harmful abdominal fat that accumulates around organs and causes illnesses (1).
Another study showed that IF causes less muscle loss than the more common method of continuous calorie restriction (Trusted Sources: 1).
Studies have shown that it can have significant benefits for weight control and health of body and brain. It can even help to live longer.
Here are the main health benefits of IF:
Insulin resistance: IF can reduce insulin resistance by lowering blood sugar by 3-6% and insulin levels by 20-31%, which should protect against type 2 diabetes (1).
It is important to bear in mind that research is still at an early stage. Many of the studies were small or short-term. Many questions still need to be answered in higher quality human studies (Trusted Source: 1).
You should only start intermittent fasting when you are healthy, do not have a preexisting health condition and are not pregnant.
You should consult a doctor before starting IF, if you:
Have problems with blood sugar regulation.
Have low blood pressure.
Are taking medication.
Have a history of eating disorders.
Are a woman trying to get pregnant.
Are a woman with a history of amenorrhea.
Are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Apart from that, IF has an excellent safety profile. It is not dangerous not to eat for a while if you are generally healthy and well nourished.
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Further links to studies and press releases:
National Institute on Aging – Research on intermittent fasting show health benefits
The New York Times – Benefits of intermittent fasting
Harvard Health Publishing: Surprising update on intermittent fasting
National Library of Medicine: Intermittent fasting versus daily caloric restriction for weight loss