Once associated with certain religious practices, intermittent fasting is now a popular lifestyle choice. There is much talk about how it can be an effective way to lose weight, benefit the brain, and improve your overall health if done right. Essentially, intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating where you cycle blocks of eating with periods of fasting. The standard time blocks are fasting for 16 hours each day and having an eight-hour window where you eat (although some prefer 14 hours of fasting with 10 hour window for eating). Here are five evidence-based health benefits of intermittent fasting.
Changes the behavior of your cells, genes, and hormones
When you give your body a break from food it allows your body to repair your cells, which changes hormone levels and makes your stored fat more accessible for energy. What this means is our insulin levels drop, and your human growth hormone levels rise, which results in accelerated fat burning, muscle gain, cellular repair, waste removal, increased lifespan, and protection against diseases. High insulin levels are also associated with speeding up the aging process, which is why intermittent fasting can be very beneficial when it comes to anti-aging.
Reduces abdominal fat
This one may seem obvious, but fasting helps decrease the number of calories you consume. Some studies show that consuming fewer calories has the potential to help prevent age-related diseases and extend the overall lifespan. Additionally, this type of fasting expedites weight loss by improving your hormone function (i.e. human growth hormone). Essentially, if your insulin levels are lower and your growth hormone levels are higher, your body will seek out your stored fat to expend as energy, boosting your metabolic rate.
Reduced inflammation and oxidative damage
Some studies show that intermittent fasting can reduce inflammation throughout the body and also help reduce and prevent oxidative damage, which is directly linked with aging and chronic illness. Inflammation is the center of so many health disorders and diseases. Oxidative stress targets proteins in the body and our DNA, damaging them which results in chronic stress on the body making our cells age, in turn making us look older. Instead of turning to medication to fix inflammation in the body, intermittent fasting offers a free and effective way to restore your bodily processes, fight inflammation, and protect you against oxidative damage.
Potential to prevent cancer
Cancer, the uncontrollable growth of cells, is very prevalent in our society, and without a cure, we can only take preventative measures to ensure our cells remain healthy.
When we fast, our body gets put into a waste removal mode called autophagy. Autophagy is the process in which your cells get rid of degraded proteins and damaged cells from the body, resulting in extreme cell turnover, allowing the good cells to flourish. Intermittent fasting allows your body to take a break from worrying about what is going inside the body so it can focus on getting waste out of the body.
Intermittent fasting has also been shown to improve overall brain health. It can help aid in the growth of new neurons, reduce oxidative damage and inflammation, and reduce blood sugar all of which improve brain function. Several studies have also shown that intermittent fasting can increase the levels of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a brain hormone linked to mood enhancement, among other brain-boosting elements. Good brain health is key to a long life, and that is just one more way intermittent fasting helps extend your lifespan.
As you can tell, intermittent fasting offers potential benefits to your entire body. It can go beyond simple weight loss and protect and empower the body, which is directly correlated with anti-aging at the cellular level.