Science has discovered many health benefits associated with fasting, and since we can’t fast indefinitely, intermittent fasting offers many of the perks of fasting while still allowing for normal everyday function. So what is intermittent fasting and what are these perks?
Intermittent fasting can mean many things, but one popular method is the “16:8 Fast” which basically means that we would fast for 16 hours per day and only eat within an 8 hour period each day. The 16 hours of fasting includes the time we sleep. A more stringent version of this type of fast is the 20:4 version. These are examples of shorter fasts that act within a 24 hour period, however, there are also longer fasts that act within a week rather than a day (such as the 5:2 Fast in which you fast for two days out of every week).
In terms of perks, the most obvious benefit is weight loss. Weight loss for intermittent fasting works two ways. If we fast intermittently, we are consuming fewer calories, so unless we eat even more calories in the meals we do eat, this translates to fewer calories taken in and so we would lose weight. Additional to this, intermittent fasting has a significant effect on various hormones in the body. Besides lowering insulin levels, fasting increases growth hormone and the amount of norepinephrine in the body. The effect of this is an increase in our metabolic rates, which is an increase in the amount of energy our bodies use in a given unit of time. This increase in metabolic rate increases the breakdown and use of fat for energy, which translates to more weight loss. So not only does intermittent fasting reduce our intake of calories, but it also increases the number of calories we use!
This decrease in insulin has also been shown to reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes by decreasing our body’s resistance to insulin. It has also been discovered that intermittent fasting aids our bodies in dealing with oxidative stress, which has the effect of reducing inflammation. This is very significant since inflammation is associated with several chronic ailments. Along similar lines, fasting has also been shown to help our cells “detox,” or remove damaged proteins that tend to build up over time. This may reduce our susceptibility to cancer or Alzheimer’s Disease.
Overall, there are many benefits to fasting intermittently. Aside from weight loss and reducing the risk of many common diseases, fasting ultimately gives us power and control over our own health trajectory, which may be the biggest benefit of all!
Written by Dr. David Gabriele ND, R.Ac