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The Most Important Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a fancy way of saying eating meals less often. It is something that has gained popularity in recent years due to the many health benefits it provides. This dietary habit is not about what food you eat (but that does matter), it is more about when you eat and how often you eat. There are three main forms of intermittent fasting that are currently extremely popular, they are:
- 16-hour fasts every day
- Fasting for 24 hours two times a week
- Skipping certain meals in various frequencies, for example, no breakfast Monday, Wednesday, or Friday
Now that we have covered the basics about what this is, let us take a look at the benefits of using this dietary plan.
Reduces Insulin Resistance
As type 2 diabetes has become a raging pandemic in the United States and other large nations, the need to combat it in creative ways has become direr. Insulin resistance is your body’s decreased ability to react to its own insulin that it creates.
When you eat your body produces insulin which lowers the amount of sugar in the body. When you become more insulin resistant, the result is more sugar in the blood, and that leads to diabetes and prediabetes.
Intermittent fasting has been known to lower insulin resistance and make the body more receptive to the insulin created. It results in much lower blood sugar levels overall in people that practice it. There have been clinical studies that have shown that participants who were doing intermittent fasting saw their overall blood sugar levels drop between 3 and 6 percent in a 12 week period.
The magic is in training your body to react to the insulin that is being produced. When you are constantly eating, your kidneys and liver never get a break, so the constant influx of insulin becomes ignored by the body to some extent. The idea of eating less often is to make the body more receptive to the insulin that is produced, as it is not constantly flooding the organs. To get the most benefit out of this, you should also be doing regular exercise. Machines you can set up in your house like treadmills or stationary bikes are popular options.
Good for Your Heart
Because the heart is constantly pumping blood through the body, the amount of sugar in the blood affects the heart’s performance. In a severely diabetic person, the blood is thicker and the sugar particles in the blood act as sandpaper, eroding the arteries and heart muscles in the process. Therefore, since intermittent fasting helps lower blood sugar it has a compound effect on the heart.
Cholesterol plays a big role in heart health as well. Since you are eating less often, there is less food overall coming into your body, which means less bad cholesterol. When your blood is thinner with less junk floating in it, your heart does not have to work as much. This leads to less stress on your heart.
Because inflammation in the body is decreased overall with less eating and more time between meals, the arteries, veins, and muscles as well as other vital organs are not inflamed. This makes the space for the blood to flow wider open, which puts less stress on the heart. Less inflammation equals less work for the heart to do.
Since the heart is the main organ delivering blood to your body, everything in your body affects how the heart works. Intermittent fasting has so many whole-body benefits, they all add up to less work for the heart to do.
Good for Your Brain
Again, the body is a closed system with multiple organs working together. Since the brain is part of that system, as other parts improve so does the brain.
Less food coming in means less inflammation overall, and inflammation is the culprit for so many health issues down the line. If inflammation is reduced in the body, it is also reduced in the brain. There is less stress in the body due to oxidation which is caused by free radicals and other particles when the amount of food being digested is decreased.
As with the heart, the brain is a sensitive organ and blood is constantly always flowing through it. The thickness of the blood makes a difference in how healthy the brain is. Since intermittent fasting has been proven to lower blood sugar levels, it is extremely beneficial to the brain and the blood vessels in the brain.
Strokes are one of the worst events that can damage the brain. Intermittent fasting has shown to reduce the risk of stroke, therefore improving the health and longevity of the brain.
There have been studies in mice showing that intermittent fasting has helped increase new brain cell growth as well. The logic presumes this is also the case in humans, but I could not find a specific study on this topic so for now we can only guess that it does, or assume it helps or at the very least does not decrease new cell production.
A term you should become familiar with is oxidative stress, which is what happens over time when harmful particles are processed through the body. This process leads to lots of diseases and is the main cause of aging in humans. Intermittent fasting has been proven to help the body cope with this stress making it more resistant to its effects, and even lowering the amount of it, to begin with.
Oxidative stress is the mechanism that causes inflammation in the body, and with less oxidative stress comes less inflammation throughout the entire body.
May Lower Cancer Risk
When cells reproduce uncontrollably, it is called cancer, which as of today, there is no cure. There are many treatments that can stop cancer from continuing, and curing the patient, but there is no one treatment that will stop all cancer.
There are no studies proving that this diet trend of eating less food less often is sure to prevent cancer, but there is promising research from some animal studies which indicates that it may help. This is not for certain currently, but we do know that it helps the overall health of the body, and the healthier the organs in the body, the less likely they are to develop cancer.
Weight Loss / Fat Loss
This is an easy one to prove and there have been numerous studies supporting this claim. Intermittent fasting will help you lose weight, full stop. When you are eating less food and allowing a longer time for your body to process the food after you eat, the waste from the food will be disposed of, leaving less junk hanging around to cling to your muscles and organs. The less you eat, the less weight you gain, this is a fact unless you have a disease that prevents you from losing weight.
The Most Popular Myths of Intermittent Fasting
Along with the many benefits of intermittent fasting, come a host of myths and misconceptions. Since this trend is new to popular culture it is not yet fully understood by many people. Anytime something is not fully understood, people start guessing and making up what seem like logical arguments against it. This is human nature, but they are not dealing with facts. Let us look at some of the most popular myths and misconceptions.
Eating All the Time Increases Metabolism
It is a common misconception that eating often is good for you. If you do not know any better, it seems like a logical assumption. If you put food in your body often, your body will process it faster because it knows more food is coming soon. This seems to make sense on the surface, the problem is that it is just not true.
Fasting for short periods of time makes your cells repair themselves faster in a process that is commonly called autophagy. In this process, your cells will use proteins around them for energy. This process is known to help with Alzheimer’s Disease as well as aging and even cancer.
Therefore, when you are eating less and increasing the speed of your cells repairing themselves through autophagy, you are increasing your metabolism by eating less. This is the exact opposite of the common myth that eating more often increases your metabolism.
Many Small Meals Help You Lose Weight
This is just not true. Just as in the example above, eating fewer speeds up your metabolism which helps you lose weight. It seems logical that eating many small meals would help the weight come off, but as proven already, eating a lot of meals no matter how small actually slows your body down and makes it use its energy to get rid of the waste instead of using it for something beneficial like cell repair or muscle growth. Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do for your health. If you have not yet tried intense cardio workouts at home, jump ropes and battle ropes are relatively inexpensive and very good cardio workouts.
Fasting Is Bad for The Body
Fasting is good for the body, not bad. People seem to think that the body needs food all the time to survive, which is just not true. You can live for over a week with no food, it is not recommended but it is possible. Intermittent fasting will not make you less healthy, but healthier. There is just too much evidence that points to the fact that intermittent fasting is something that every person who wants to feel better and live longer should consider doing.