Intermittent fasting is a dietary pattern where you cycle between eating and fasting. There are many different types of intermittent fasting, such as the 16/8 and 5:2 methods. Numerous studies have shown that there are several powerful intermittent fasting benefits for your body and brain.
1. Weight Loss
Intermittent fasting may drive weight loss by lowering insulin levels. Insulin is a hormone that allows cells to take in glucose. The body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which cells use for energy or convert into fat and store for later use.
Insulin levels drop when a person is not consuming food. During a period of fasting, it is possible that decreasing insulin levels causes cells to release their glucose stores as energy. Repeating this process regularly, as with intermittent fasting, may lead to weight loss. Intermittent fasting can also lead to the consumption of fewer calories overall, which may also contribute to weight loss.
Most current studies suggest that intermittent fasting may be an effective weight management strategy. It is unlikely to be more beneficial than traditional calorie restriction, but some people may find intermittent fasting easier.
2. A Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Because intermittent fasting can help weight loss and potentially influence other factors linked to an increased risk of diabetes, it may also bring benefits for diabeters prevention.
Being overweight or obese is one of the main risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes.
A 2014 review paper examined evidence that intermittent fasting can lower blood glucose and insulin levels in people at risk of diabetes. The authors say that intermittent fasting or alternate day fasting are promising for weight loss and reducing diabetes risk. However, more studies are necessary.
Among adults who were overweight and obese, the researchers observed reductions in markers of diabetes, such as insulin sensitivity.
As a result, they suggest that intermittent fasting could lower the risk of type 2 diabetes in this group of people.
However, a 2018 rat study suggests that intermittent fasting could increase the risk of diabetes. The study tracked the results of intermittent fasting in rats over a 3-month period.
Scientists need to replicate the results of this study, and further research is now necessary to find out whether these findings in rats apply to humans.
3. Improved Heart Health
Researchers have also found that intermittent fasting could improve aspects of cardiovascular health.
A review from 2016 reports that intermittent fasting could lead to a reduction in blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, and triglycerides in both humans and animals. Triglycerides are a type of fat present in the blood that has links to heart disease.
4. Improved Brain Health
Studies in mice have shown that intermittent fasting could improve brain health.
One study found that mice that were on a brief intermittent fasting diet had better learning and memory than mice with free access to food. Further research in animals suggests that intermittent fasting can suppress inflammation in the brain, which has links to neurological conditions.
Other animal studies have found that intermittent fasting can reduce the risk of neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke.
More research is necessary to investigate whether these findings apply to humans
5. A Reduced Risk of Cancer
Animal studies have also shown that intermittent fasting may help reduce the risk of cancer. A series of recent studies in animals have shown that restrictive diets, such as intermittent fasting, can delay the development of tumors. However, there are no studies that have established a link between intermittent fasting and cancer in humans.
Obesity is a risk factor for many different cancers, so the weight loss aspect of intermittent fasting may be responsible for the reduced cancer risk implied by some studies. Intermittent fasting may also reduce several biological factors associated with cancer, such as insulin levels and inflammation.
There are indications that intermittent fasting can reduce the risk of cancer. However, further studies in humans are necessary to support this claim.
Research suggests that intermittent fasting may have multiple health benefits. For example, intermittent fasting may help with weight loss, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease and improve heart and brain health.
Animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting may also have further benefits in terms of reducing the risk of cancer and some neurological diseases. Of particular interest for research is the translation of the results of animal studies to humans.