Benefits of intermittent fasting
February 3, 2023
Intermittent Fasting: What are the benefits?
A tasty hot-topic in the health industry, intermittent fasting has become increasingly popular in recent years thanks to exposure from celebrities such as Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman. But what is it about this style of eating that entices Hollywood's finest?
Intermittent fasting is bountiful in its benefits for people from all walks of life: from reversing diabetes to life-changing weight loss, people from across the globe have skyrocketed their health in many ways with this lifestyle.
Unlike typical diets that focus on how much and what you eat, intermittent fasting focuses on when you eat. This allows newbies and pros alike to enjoy the flexibility of fasting while working towards their health goals.
It’s difficult to know where to begin with the positives of this lifestyle, so let’s start from the top…
Brain Health: Thinking and Memory
Weighing 3 pounds in mass and powered by 100 billion neurons, your brain is the ultimate control center of your body. As we well know, physical and mental health go hand in hand, and it turns out that improving your health with intermittent fasting can boost your brain more than you might think.
A study conducted by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester has shown that fasting can help to assist in mitochondria function, powering each and every cell in your body, as well as protecting our all-important dopamine-producing neurons, meaning your life won't only be healthier, but happier too!
Another study, led by Mark P. Mattson, Ph.D, suggests that fasting can protect brain cells by providing ketones for fuel, instead of glucose. Ketones appear to help the brain produce brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a clever compound that encourages the regrowth of brain cells, protects from stress and inflammation and increases cellular longevity and productivity. This study even found that fasting regularly can slow the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
But wait, there’s more! It’s hard to ignore the almost-immediate effects of fasting. Those who regularly fast often report feelings of improved focus at work, reduced anxiety and even an improved relationship to food and their body.
Heart Health: Protection and Prevention
Did you know that 1 in 14 people are living with heart or circulatory disease? Your heart is the perfectly tuned machine that ensures your tissues and organs receive the cells, proteins and sugars they need to thrive. But with so many people struggling with heart health, how can we reduce our risk of disease in hope for a longer and stronger life?
Intermittent fasting has been shown to potentially increase levels of a key protein that controls inflammation and protects the heart. The study followed participants that fasted twice a week, drinking only water on prescribed fasting days. Dr Benjamin Horne, lead researcher, believes that this practice has similar effects to pharmaceutical drugs that work to lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart failure.
Lowering Blood Pressure: Adios, Stress and Plaque Buildup
Across the United states, it is estimated that nearly half of adults (47%, or 116 million) have hypertension, with a systolic blood pressure greater than 130 mmHg. Factors that increase blood pressure can range from environmental and emotional stress to dietary stress (hello fast food!).
But dietary stress is not only defined as the specific foods you eat, but also how and when you eat them. One study found intermittent fasting to reduce blood pressure, oxidative stress, and the risk of atherosclerosis (the buildup of plaque within the arteries).
Having a healthy blood pressure is vitally important as it can reduce our risk of life-changing health problems like heart attacks, heart disease and strokes.
Stroke: Reduced Risk and Improved Recovery
Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke, with a patient dying every 3.5 minutes. Worryingly these statistics don’t seem to be slowing down.
Improvements in lifestyle, such as reduction in stress, limiting alcohol and drugs, maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy balanced diet can all reduce your risk of a stroke. But in recent years, one study conducted by the University of Surrey found that intermittent fasting can not only reduce the risk, but also aid recovery for those who have suffered a stroke.
Researchers found that while on the 5:2 plan, the body’s ability to metabolize fat and glucose from the bloodstream after a meal was more efficient than a typical weight-loss diet.
In addition to risk reduction, research found that fasting may also help support neurogenesis, the creation of new neurons and neuronal connections, after a stroke. Similarly, a recent study on mice found that fasting appears to reduce tissue damage and neurological dysfunction after ischemic stroke “by a mechanism(s) involving suppression of excitotoxicity, oxidative stress, inflammation and cell death pathways in animal stroke model.”
These results are not only impressive, but also incredibly hopeful for survivors and supporting families around the world!
Reduced Inflammation: Faster Healing and Longer Life
As you may have gathered from reading until this point, inflammation is a key factor in the risk and reduction of many diseases. It is the immune system's response to harmful stimuli, like germs, damaged cells, toxins or external environmental stressors like food, smoking or emotional stress. It acts to remove the stimuli and initiate the healing process, and is therefore an important mechanism for health and well-being.
However, too much of a good thing can be harmful, and such is the case for inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is simply the body in a constant state of high-alert, which over time, increases the risk of diseases such as cancers or stroke. Ranging from subtle to severe, symptoms of chronic inflammation can include:
- Physical pain
- Depression and/or Anxiety
- Weight gain or loss
- Digestive issues
- Regular illness or infections
A recent study found that intermittent fasting significantly reduces inflammation, and therefore the risk of various diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and cardiovascular diseases.
This reduction in inflammation was caused by a reduction of cells in the blood called monocytes, which were dependent on glucose on protein levels, improved by the fasting plan.
Alongside fasting, if your goal is health and longevity, it is important to manage or remove any chronic stressors in your life that are causing inflammation, for example, eating mostly healthy wholefoods and limiting alcohol consumption.
Reducing Your Risk of Cancer: Boosted Prevention and Treatment Effectiveness
As the second-leading cause of death globally, Cancer is something many of us have unfortunately been affected by in our lives, either personally or through the care of loved ones. But did you know that over 40% of cancer-related deaths could be preventable due to their links to variable risk factors such as poor diet, smoking, alcohol, and physical inactivity.
As mentioned previously, one leading cause of cancer is inflammation. We can lower the risk of some cancers with the reduction in cellular inflammation through improved diet, focused meal timings and biological mechanisms prompted by fasting.
Alongside this, fasting can offer an array of benefits that may reduce our risk:
- Regulation in blood glucose levels
- Lowered risk of obesity
- Increase in tumor-killing T-Cells
- Autophagy and cellular cleansing
- Stimulation of stem cells
Dr. Valter Longo of the University of California prescribes a fast-mimicking diet every three months for those at high risk of cancer, claiming that “In mouse studies, FMD was as effective as chemotherapy. Instead of damaging normal tissues and organs, it protected them.”
Not only can intermittent fasting potentially reduce our likelihood of getting cancer, but if the worst were to happen, this lifestyle can also offer incredible aids in recovery. In 2016, a study showed that a fasting-diet slowed the growth and progression of breast cancer and skin cancer. Second to this, another study showed that intermittent fasting can actually bolster the effectiveness of cancer treatments like chemotherapy.
Obesity: Weight Loss and Fat Reduction
Costing the US $174 billion each year, obesity is a prevalent, serious and costly disease: financially and physically. Obesity-related conditions, including type 2 diabetes, cancers, heart disease and stroke, are among the leading causes of preventable, premature death.
One of the most common goals in those seeking better health through intermittent fasting is weight loss.
Intermittent fasting can help individuals on a weight loss journey for multiple reasons:
- Mindful eating habits
- Subtle and manageable calorie deficit
- Biological mechanisms prompted while fasting
Studies have shown the beneficial effects of intermittent fasting on an individual’s lipid profile, the markers within blood tests to identify abnormalities in lipids, such as cholesterol and triglycerides. Abnormalities in this profiling are commonly seen in obese individuals, with 60-70% showing some kind of imbalance. These abnormalities can include elevated serum triglyceride, VLDL, apolipoprotein B, and non-HDL-C levels.
If left untreated, these imbalances can cause disease.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to be incredibly beneficial for lipid health, and it is regularly associated with weight loss, glycemic regulation and the reduction of stubborn lower-belly fat in people with obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes: Management and Reversal
In 2021, the International Diabetes Federation estimated that across the world, over 537 million adults are living with diabetes.
Diabetes comes in two forms:
- Type 1: The body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin.
- Type 2: The body does not produce enough insulin, or the body's cells do not react to insulin.
While we do not recommend intermittent fasting to type 1 diabetics, many studies have shown the benefits of fasting in the management or reversal of type 2 diabetes.
Immediate benefits (5) for people with type 2 diabetes include:
- More control over blood sugar levels
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Weight loss
- Lowered blood pressure
- Increased fat-metabolism
Furthermore, a case report published in 2018 reported that subjects with type 2 diabetes no longer needed to use insulin after just one month of fasting 3 days a week. In other studies, intermittent fasting has also been seen to reduce the risk of complications from diabetes, such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.
Extended Lifespan: Living Longer and Finding Joy
By this point of the article, you may be thinking, “This sounds pretty good!”, and you’d be right. At Fastic, we want to help people live longer, happier lives, and so far, we’ve done a pretty good job. We have helped over 27M users to overcome health concerns and extend their lifespan through fasting.
Aside from the evidence of disease management, aiding weight loss and improving cellular function, intermittent fasting has one more trick up its sleeve.
It’s super simple: intermittent fasting stimulates circadian autophagy, a biological process that links your body clock to cellular metabolism. This process has been shown to extend the lifespan of fruit-flies in a fascinating study by the University of Columbia.
This cyclical cleansing of your cells helps to recycle and rejuvenate each and every cell in the body, cleaning out any unnecessary or damaged cell components, reducing the risk of inflammation or disease.
So, are you ready to take the first step to a longer, healthier life?
No matter your goals and lifestyle, there’s an intermittent fasting plan that’s right for you. With Fastic, you will have the tools and support you need to make intermittent fasting simple and sustainable. Interested in giving it a go?
Download Fastic today to join the Fastic Family to start your intermittent fasting journey!
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