The mention of fasting in our society draws people’s minds to religion and spirituality. But, research has proven that fasting not only has spiritual benefits but also has various health benefits which have scientifically been proven.
Intermittent fasting refers to an eating pattern where you alternate cycles of eating and fasting periods. The various types of intermittent fasting include the 5:2 diet, alternate day fast, eat-stop-eat fast, 16/8 diet.
The simplest and most common is the 16/8 diet which involves daily fasts of 16 hours and restricting your eating to an 8-10 hour “eating window ” where you can eat twice or thrice. A typical example is skipping breakfast and eating the first meal at about 12pm and the next meal at about 8pm. Thus, the individual fasts for 16 hours from 8pm to 12pm the next day. It could also be 10am and 6pm or 11am and 7pm. The 16/8 is the simplest because we naturally fast when we sleep so this diet is somehow an extension of the normal fast we do when we sleep.
Some well proven benefits of intermittent fasting are explained below.
Intermittent fasting is beneficial for weight loss. since the body does not get its energy from food during fasting, it relies on the glucose stored in the muscles and liver to gain energy. When the stored glucose(glycogen) is exhausted, the body then begins to burn fat for energy. This causes the fat stores in the body to deplete and result in weight loss. Any toxins that are in the body’s fats are dissolved and removed from the body.
Secondly, intermittent fasting improves blood pressure and heart health. Fasting decreases the Low Density Lipoprotein( LDL), also called bad cholesterol. A study in 110 obese adults showed that fasting for three weeks under medical supervision significantly decreased blood pressure, as well as levels of blood triglycerides, total cholesterol and bad cholesterol(LDL).
Another benefit of intermittent fasting is cellular repair. When fasting, body cells undergo autophagy( waste removal). This involves the breakdown and metabolizing of broken and dysfunctional proteins that form in cells over a certain period. Increase in the frequency of autophagy provides protection against diseases like cancer.
Last but not least, intermittent fasting also results in an increase in insulin sensitivity. During fasting, the body tries to conserve energy by increasing the sensitivity of cell membranes to insulin. The cells can now metabolize insulin efficiently, reducing the amount of glucose in the body. Researches and reports have shown that the risk of diabetes can be reduced by intermittent fasting. In June 2014, the Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting that fasting may reduce the risk of diabetes among people who are at high risk for the condition.
It is important to note that intermittent fasting, just like any other beneficial diet, requires discipline & commitment. It’s benefits are worth the try!