Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that includes periods of fasting lasting roughly 12-36 hours and has been gaining popularity in recent years. Celebrities, personal trainers, bodybuilders, and fitness influencers all advertise its benefits for weight loss, which makes us want to experience it for ourselves. You may find this eating pattern works well for you and solves health problems that you may not even be aware of. So let’s find out what the benefits of intermittent fasting are.
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
In this section, we will discuss the potential benefits of intermittent fasting and the research behind it.
Intermittent fasting can promote weight loss by lowering insulin levels. The body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which cells use for energy or turn into fat and store for later use. Insulin is a hormone that allows cells to obtain glucose.
Insulin levels go down when a person does not eat. During fasting, it is possible that a decrease in insulin levels causes cells to release their glucose stores as energy.
Repeating this process regularly, as with intermittent fasting, can lead to weight loss because total calorie intake is lower.
A 2015 systematic review published in the journal Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology examined data from 40 different studies on intermittent fasting. The researchers concluded that it is beneficial for weight loss.
According to 27 studies of intermittent fasting and weight loss, participants were found to have a weight loss of 0.8% to 13.0% of baseline body weight.
2Can reduce oxidative stress
Oxidative stress is one of the stages of ageing and many chronic diseases. It involves unstable molecules called free radicals which react with and damage other important molecules, such as proteins and DNA.
Research shows that intermittent fasting can increase the body’s resistance to oxidative stress.
3Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
An estimated 13% of all United States adults (18 years or older) have diabetes, and 34.5% meet the criteria for prediabetes.
A review article published in 2014 in the journal Translational Research examined evidence that intermittent fasting can lower blood glucose and insulin levels in people at risk of developing diabetes. The authors argue that intermittent fasting, or fasting with alternating days, is promising for weight loss and reducing the risk of developing diabetes. However, more research is needed.
Among overweight and obese adults, the researchers observed a reduction in markers of diabetes, such as insulin sensitivity. As a result, they suggested that intermittent fasting may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
4Reduction of blood pressure
Hypertension is a common disorder in the modern world. In the United States, this problem affects 86 million adults. It is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, stroke, and chronic kidney disease.
The use of the intermittent fasting diet has a beneficial effect on lowering blood pressure. This has been documented in animal studies and later confirmed in humans.
According to a review published in the October 2021 Annual Review of Nutrition, different forms of intermittent fasting, including alternating between fasting and 5:2 days, can help reduce LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol levels, as well as other markers of cardiometabolic health, such as blood pressure. LDL cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease or stroke, according to the CDC. The researchers also noted that intermittent fasting lowers levels of triglycerides – fats found in the blood that can lead to stroke, heart attack or heart disease.
6Induces various cellular repair processes
When we fast, the body’s cells trigger a process of “waste removal” called autophagy. During this process, cells break down and metabolise degraded and non-functional proteins, which eventually accumulate inside the cells.
Increased autophagy can provide protection against a range of diseases, including cancer and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
7Can extend your life expectancy, helping you to live longer
One of the most interesting applications of intermittent fasting may be its ability to prolong life expectancy. In one study, researchers found that a period of fasting in single-meal feeding mice resulted in a significant 11-14% increase in mean survival even in the absence of calorie restriction.
Given the known overall health benefits, it makes sense that intermittent fasting can help you live a longer and healthier life.
Potential side effects of intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting has many health benefits, but sometimes it can cause unwanted side effects.
Not surprisingly, hunger is one of the most common side effects associated with intermittent fasting. When you reduce your calorie intake or go without calories for a long time, you may experience increased hunger.
Research suggests that hunger is a symptom that people usually experience in the first few days of fasting.
One study, conducted in 2019, examined 1,422 people who participated in fasting regimes lasting from 4 to 21 days. They typically experienced hunger symptoms only during the first few days of the regimen. So symptoms such as hunger can go away as your body adapts to regular periods of fasting.
How to manage
During eating time on intermittent fasting try to eat more protein and increase your fibre intake. Eat slowly and concentrate on every bite which will help you curb your food intake. Keep yourself busy. A lot of times, you may feel that you are hungry, however, the reality is that you are simply bored and are having cravings. And of course, do not forget about water intake.
Headaches are a common side effect of intermittent fasting. They usually occur in the first few days of fasting.
Interestingly, researchers have found that ‘fasting headaches’ are usually localised to the frontal area of the brain, and the pain tends to be mild to moderate in intensity. A study of the general Danish population found a lifetime prevalence of fasting headaches of only 4.1%.
How to manage
Consume enough calories at each meal, choose healthy fats over carbohydrates and drink plenty of approved fluids during fasting such as water and green tea.
Digestive problems – including constipation, diarrhoea, nausea and bloating – are symptoms you may experience if you follow intermittent fasting.
Dehydration, another common side effect associated with intermittent fasting, can worsen constipation. For this reason, it is very important to follow a proper drinking regime during intermittent fasting. Choosing nutrient-dense foods rich in fibre may also help prevent constipation.
How to manage
Changes in diet associated with intermittent fasting programs may cause some unpleasant effects, such as constipation and bloating. For this reason, proper drinking is essential when following intermittent fasting. Also, choosing foods rich in nutrients and fibre can also help prevent constipation.
Research shows that some people who practice different intermittent fasting methods experience fatigue and low energy levels.
Low blood sugar levels linked to intermittent fasting can cause feelings of tiredness and weakness. Intermittent fasting can also cause sleep disturbance in some people, which can lead to fatigue during the day.
How to manage
The key to overcoming fatigue is to stick to an intermittent fasting programme and increase the amount of high-fat foods, such as fatty meats, fish, avocado and cheeses. These types of products will give steady physical and mental energy.
Some people may experience irritability and other mood disorders when they practise intermittent fasting.
Low blood sugar, or hypoglycaemia, can occur during periods of calorie restriction or during fasting which can lead to irritability, anxiety and poor concentration.
How to manage
Keep yourself active and flowing. Eight to ten hours in a busy workday can fly when you are busy. Keep yourself hydrated and food will be the last thing on your mind.
Get enough sleep. This is crucial, especially in intermittent fasting.
Try to consume more satiating, high-fat foods when it is time to eat. If you are satiated, you are not hungry and you’re not irritable.
Bad breath is an unpleasant side effect that can occur in some people during intermittent fasting. It is caused by a lack of saliva and increased levels of acetone in the exhaled air. Fasting causes your body to use fat for fuel. Acetone is a by-product of fat metabolism, so it increases in your blood and breath during fasting.
How to manage
Keep yourself hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids can increase the flow of saliva into your mouth. So keep a bottle of water handy so you can sip it throughout the day
Use an effective mouthwash. The bacterial population in your mouth can increase when your saliva levels are low. To reduce it, you can try using mouthwash, which simply copes with bacterial growth.
Keep your mouth clean. A dry mouth during intermittent fasting can cause bad breath. Effective oral hygiene – including regular brushing, flossing and tongue cleaning – can help control bad breath during such fasting.
Let’s sum up
Intermittent fasting has been gaining popularity in recent years because of its potential health benefits. Thanks to this type of diet, you can achieve weight loss, a reduction in oxidative stress in the body, a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, renewed cells, plus greater longevity.
However, it may not be suitable for everyone. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new diet or eating pattern, especially if you have a history of eating disorders, diabetes, or other medical conditions. Additionally, it is crucial to ensure that you are still meeting your daily nutrient and caloric needs during your eating window, and to listen to your body if you experience any negative effects while fasting.
Hungry for knowledge? Here you go!
In this video, Cynthia Thurlow a Western medicine-trained nurse practitioner and functional nutritionist who is passionate about female hormonal health will tell you about intermittent fasting as a transformational technique. Let’s watch!
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