12 Amazing Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Introduction to Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting has been a big trend in the health and fitness industry for a while. It simply means to avoid eating food for a given period of time. Humans, since earlier ages, have scheduled their eating period in a bid to reap tremendous health benefits.
Fasting is so important that it finds its way in the religious fields. The Buddhists fast during meditation, Islam has a 30 days annual Ramadan fast, and Christians have Lent before Easter. Intermittent fasting is a lifestyle, as opposed to a fad diet. This is due to the fact that it has to do with the idea of “when you eat” rather than “what you eat”.
Giving your body a break from food allows your gut some time to rest and inflammation to cool down, all of which produces some amazing health benefits and could potentially increase life span. You’ll begin to go through phases of weight loss. Besides that, your brain health, mood, and many other bodily functions improve when intermittent fasting.
Table of Contents
1. Intro to Intermitttent Fasting
2. Weight Loss
3. Lose Belly Fat
4. Improves Insulin Sensitivity
5. Increased Brain Health and Function
6. Improved Autophagy and Neuron Health
7. Helps Protect Against Alzheimer’s Diseases
8. Improves Body Cell Health
9. Reduces Inflammation
10. Improved Immune System Regulation
11. Increased Lifespan and Quality of Life
12. Reduced Risk of Low Severity Diseases
13. Enhanced Genetic (DNA) Repairation
If that’s still not convincing enough for you to start practicing intermittent fasting, the following points discuss the various health benefits:
Weight loss is one of the most prominent benefits of intermittent fasting. This is due to the fact that when we fast, the body uses up the glucose stores in the muscles.
Since the body doesn’t get any more glucose from incoming food, it draws energy from Ketones. Ketones are byproducts of the breakdown of fatty acids.
The breakdown of fat for fuel and the creation of ketones is a normal process for everyone, especially during sleep when our bodies have been fasting for around 8 hours.
A study in 2014 demonstrates the relationship between body weight and intermittent fasting with mice. A group of mice were fed within a 10-hour window strictly, and they did not gain weight. The other group was left to feed as they wish, which led to excess weight gain.
Also, the restricted mice were allowed to feed freely during weekends showing that your progress with intermittent fasting is not stalled by a brief break.
Our ancestors were not subjected to varieties and an abundance of food as we have now. As a result, their bodies have adapted to fat, not sugar, making them able to burn fat. This, in turn, gave rise to a moderately lean, agile, strong body that definitely helped them with their survival.
Our over-dependence on crabs, sugars, and grains have reconfigured our body to store fat when it should be burned for energy. This makes us look for more fat and sugar to satisfy our cravings and keep us going. Intermittent fasting is a tool that can help break this over-dependence on carbs.
When the food is being digested, some nutrients are used for energy while in most other cases the rest of the energy is stored as visceral fat. If we keep overeating, we will keep storing more fat, especially with the slowed down metabolism most people have.
This is where intermittent fasting comes in.
When you break the constant supply of food to the body, the body turns its focus on tapping its fat reserve. With this in effect, you’ll have a healthier system and experience dramatic weight loss. This is why intermittent fasting is a recommended tool for people who desires to lose weight.
Intermittent Fasting Helps Lose Belly Fat
Intermittent fasting is superb at helping people shed off excess fat.
Since the basics of intermittent fasting revolve around consuming fewer calories in a small time frame, it can create a hormonal balance that helps with weight loss.
When the insulin level in your body decreases, viseral body fats begin to break down.
This process also increases your metabolism, which means more calories being burnt a day. It’s been proven that with intermittent fasting, people can lose between 4 to 8% of their body fat in just 24 weeks.
The best part is, most of these fats come from the belly part – the toughest fat to get rid of.
Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Since the dawn of man, our the human body has developed mechanisms to cope with periods of food scarcity and availability. During time of limited food supply, the body’s sensitivity to insulin increases. This is beneficial since it ensures that every bit of energy taken in the food you eat is meticulously broken down, used, and stored.
During time of food surplus as well, the opposite happens and the body’s sensitivity to insulin decreases. This leads to the rise of the body’s insulin levels which causes storage of fats in the body.
Food is readily available today and we have complete control over when and how much we eat.
In fact, some people advise that the best way to eat is to spread our meals through five or six different smaller sized portions throughout the day. The body’s interprets this behavior as a excess amount of food availability, which reduces insulin sensitivity, which starts to prevent the repair of certain hormones.
In the body, Human Growth Hormones (HGH) and Insulin work in opposite ways. HGH helps promote repair of body tissues while insulin brings about the breaking down of nutrients and helps with cellular division.
When we eat, the body needs insulin which suppresses the release of HGH. Intermittent fasting can help reduce insulin secretion.
This forces the body to make better use of insulin such that it uses less insulin for food. With optimal amount of insulin in the body, the inflammation level goes down making HGH readily available.
Increased Brain Health and Function
The brain is the most important organ in the human body, using up to 25% of your daily calories. Your brain also benefits from intermittent fasting due to the reduced oxidative stress put on it.
Besides, intermittent fasting keeps inflammation in check, this also helps with insulin resistance, and a reduction in blood sugar levels too. There have been a number of studies that have shown the link between intermittent fasting and the increase of nerve cell formation which is an amazing benefit to the health of your brain.
Intermittent fasting also boosts the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factors. Neurotrophic factors are a family of biomolecules - nearly all of which are peptides or small proteins - that support the growth, survival, and differentiation of both developing and mature neurons.
Intermittent fasting inhances cognitive functions such as mental focus, learning, and memory. It also promotes the increase of brain neurons. It can ease depression and improve your mood, calm down neuroticism leading to a sharper, clearer thought process. Overall, this improves mental alertness and stagnates brain degredation that happens over time.
Intermittent fasting also makes it easy to control stress. You are more equipped to handle stressful situations, you’re much calmer and able to handle the effects of stress.
With age, the flow of blood to the brain is restricted as a result of neurons decreasing in size, and the brains volume shrinking. Intermittent fasting is a proven tool to slow down the ageing process and keep your brain sharp and healthy, throughout ages.
Improved Autophagy and Neuron Health
One of the ways intermittent fasting is helpful for proper brain health and function, is the prevention of degeneration - the death of brain neurons and cells.
Besides that, intermittent fasting ensures the autophagy process in the brain goes smoothly. With autophagy, the body gets rid of damaged cells and starts the growth of new ones.
When the body is constantly creating healthy, new, and agile body cells, your immune system begins to strengthen, improving its defence and its ability to ward off infections.
Autophagy prevents intracellular parasites from replicating, and also limits viral infections. It also helps by getting rid of intracellular pathogens and is the only process that keeps the brain protected from abnormal growth and chronic inflammation.
Helps Protect Against Alzheimer’s Diseases
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease, and unfortunately there’s no tangible cure.
However, studies have shown that intermittent fasting can reduce the severity of Alzheimer’s disease and even delay its onset.
Intermittent fasting observed over a long period of time has been shown to improve the quality of life, and reduce the severity of the symptoms of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
There are studies on animals that supports the research conducted that proves that intermittent fasting is a potent tool against Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and the other forms of neurodegenerative diseases.
This is especially because intermittent fasting helps create stronger cells.
It also reduces the onset of aging by manipulating the brain’s mitochondria networks.
Manipulating mitochondrial networks inside cells - either by dietary restriction or by genetic manipulation that mimics it - may increase lifespan and promote health, according to new research from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Studies reveal that during intermittent fasting the mitochondria in our cells become more efficient. This gives the cell a consistent supply of energy to help it keep up with our required bodily functions.
Improves Body Cell Health
Intermittent fasting has a direct effect on the mitochondria network of the body. With intermittent fasting, the mitochondrial cell remains bound together, keeping them vibrant and efficient providing energy. This in turn translates to a longer life span with delayed and a healthy aging cycle.
As humans grow, the body cells decline gradually. This is a natural process that can be altered positively by intermittent fasting. When you fast, your energy levels are reduced, making the mitochondria alter their position, prolonging their activity.
One way or the other, humans are subjected to inflammation.
Whether it’s from an intolerance, allergy, or a chronic disorder. Everyone’s subjected to inflammation, especially silent inflammation.
Silent inflammation, on the other hand, is different from classical inflammation in that it is below the threshold of perceived pain. As a result, no action is taken to stop it, and so it lingers for years, if not decades, causing continued insults on the heart, the immune system and the brain.
These continued insults often result in heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's and can lead to chronic inflammation, all of which triggers an increased levels of viseral fat and increased body weight.
This is another way that intermittent fasting can help. This is because when you fast, you lower the number of foods coming into your system, and if your diet isn’t perfect (like the most of us) it’ll grant anti-inflammatory effects on the neuro-immune system, an effect that is absent when you consume a high ammount of refined carbs.
Improved Immune System Regulation
Intermittent fasting conditions the body such that much energy is directed at the proper function of the immune system. It has been shown that when you combine intermittent fasting with drinking water and other cleansing beverages, it is usually very effective. This is due to the effect of the combination on your digestive system as it serves as a detox and reduces the number of gut bacteria.
Besides, the amount of gut bacteria directly relates to the immune system, hence, the human system focuses on keeping other essential parts of the body in good condition. Intermittent fasting also determines the number of inflammatory cytokines present in the body. Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha and Interleukin-6 are the two essential cytokines that bring about a vital inflammatory response in the body. Intermittent fasting is a powerful tool to limit the secretion of these inflammatory cytokines.
Increased Lifespan and Quality of Life
With the many health benefits that come with intermittent fasting, one of the most significant benefits is the fact that it can help increase your life expectancy.
There are studies that revealed that intermittent fasting can help you live longer, even with a calorie-restricted fast.
There is a lot of conclusive scientific evidence that proves that intermittent fasting supports a longer lifespan, one of the benefits that helps this case is how it improves overall heart health.
This is due to the fact that this method of fasting works against many risk factors that trigger heart-related diseases such as high blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels.
A study conducted on a group of people revelled that after a month of intermittent fasting, there was a reduction in total cholesterol levels, LDL cholesterol, triacylglycerol, as well as systolic blood pressure.
Another study revealed that there was an increase in the amount of good cholesterol for women while men had their triacylglycerol levels decreased. However, both sexes had their diastolic and systolic blood pressure unaltered during the study.
Diastolic blood pressure measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart rests between beats, and Systolic blood pressure is the measurement of your blood pressure during your hearts contractions.
Reduced Risk of Low Severity Diseases
When you follow intermittent fasting religiously, the risk of developing common and uncommon neurodegenerative diseases are greatly reduced. As a result, there is a lowered risk of contracting Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, even during old age.
Intermittent fasting has been proven to trigger tremendous improvements and functionality for people suffering from chronic auto-immune diseases like Systemic Lupus, Crohn’s Disease, Colitis, and Rheumatoid Arthritis. This is due to the fact that intermittent fasting reduces hyperinflammatory processes. In which case, they get to benefit from an improved immune function.
It’s also worth noting that intermittent fasting greatly reduces the actual risk of obesity. With this in mind, there’s also a very low chance of developing high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
There are other areas where intermittent fasting can reduce the risk of diseases, such as:
Reducing the severity of Cancer Growth: Recent studies on when the use of chemotherapy was combined with intermittent fasting, it was examined that the rate of progression of cancer slowed down significantly.
This was because there was an increase in the amount of tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes (literally, the antibodies that fight cancer cells in the body)
For instance, cancer cells have an average of 50 insulin receptors, compared to normal cells. These receptors survive and thrive on the breaking down of sugar.
When you’re on an intermittent fast type diet, it literally starves the cancer cells, ensuring they don’t get an adequate supply of sugar. With these, the cancer cells can be destroyed by your body’s free radicals which eventually exterminate them.
This is not a recommendation to be taken by cancer patients. Please consult your doctor about any diets you’d want to embark on prior.
Lowered Cholesterol Levels: When cholesterol levels are reduced in male subjects, there is a very low chance of developing certain chronic diseases. A study in 2010, involving women revealed that intermittent fasting reduced cholesterol levels and insulin resistance. It also reduced blood pressure.
Enhanced Genetic (DNA) Repairation
There have been countless research papers on how intermittent fasting proved that when the supply of food to the body is limited, your entire cellular system benefits from a greater lifespan.
This is due to the repair and regeneration of body cells which happens as a result of their genetic repair mechanisms and to the reduction in DNA damage done every duplication cycle.
The energy required for cellular repair is less compared to what is needed for cell division and cell creation.
When food supply to the body is limited, the body looks for ways to preserve energy.
One of the ways this happens is by reducing the number of cell divisions. This is an important process which is very helpful especially for cancer victim because cancer thrives as a result of abnormal cell divisions. Intermittent fasting is an important tool that can help put a stop to this.
One of the vital hormones in charge of cellular repairs in the body is the Human Growth Hormone (HGH). HGH triggers fat storage and muscle building changes in your metabolism. The body focuses more on repair of tissues using amino acids and enzymes, to put tissue collagen back in order. This makes it so your ligaments, bones, and tendon’s functions get back up to maintenance level.
Animal research suggests that intermittent fasting may also have further benefits in reducing the risk of cancer and several neurological conditions.
There is substantial evidence to support many of the health claims of intermittent fasting, especially in the weight loss sector.
Generally, studies suggest that intermittent fasting is as effective as traditional calorie restriction methods when it comes to reducing weight and body fat. It may also be easier to stick to than traditional methods of weight loss, such as caloric restrictions.
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