Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting can be defined as a pattern of eating where you eat only during a specific time typically within an eight-to-ten-hour window and involves cycling between periods of fasting and eating. There is scientific evidence that intermittent fasting helps to manage your weight and prevents several forms of disease thus leading to many health benefits. Your body is capable of existing without food for many hours, or even many days or longer.

Metabolism of your body changes a little bit during this fasting period. It slightly boosts metabolism and helps you eat fewer calories. Your body starts essential cellular repair pathways and alternates levels of hormones to make your already stored body fat more metabolized. It stimulates a metabolic pathway which is called autophagy. This pathway involves the removal of waste material from your cells. Major hormonal changes during this period involve a drop in insulin levels and an increase in human growth hormone levels. It lowers the sugar levels in the blood. It also involves unstable molecules which are called free radicals.

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Benefits to human health.

There are several benefits of intermittent fasting that have been shown in different scientific studies in humans:

  • Weight loss
  • Reduces Type 2 Diabetes
  • Reduces Oxidative Stress
  • Prevents from Cancer
  • Improves Brain Health
  • Prevents Heart disease
  • Prevents Alzheimer’s disease
  • Extends Your Lifespan

Intermittent fasting helps in weight loss (Johnstone, 2015) by allowing the insulin levels to decrease, the growth hormone levels to increase, and the norepinephrine levels to increase for long enough that we can burn off our fat. Intermittent fasting induces intuitive sense. Enzymes in the elementary canal break down our food and the resulting small molecules finally enter into the bloodstream.

Carbohydrates are a quick source of energy and after the breakdown, they are converted into sugar molecules. If they are taken in large amounts in our diet, they can be stored as fat cells in our bodies. Insulin helps to bring sugar molecules into the fat cells and stores them there. So, by decreasing insulin levels, fat storage can be lowered in the body and thus is accomplished by IF. This short-term fasting increases the metabolic rate by 3.6-14% and thus helps you burn even more calories (Mansell et al., 1990) (Zauner et al., 2000).

IF helps to prevent several diseases involve heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, and some cancers.

IF reduces the risk of Type 2 Diabetes by reducing insulin resistance. This disease condition occurs due to high levels of blood sugar in the context of insulin resistance. Results in a study showed that sugar levels were reduced by 3-6% and insulin levels were reduced by 20-31% (Barnosky et al., 2014). There is a point to be noted a 22-day-long IF plan can worsen blood sugar control (Heilbronn et al., 2005).  

Oxidative Stress is another worse condition that can be reduced by IF (Johnson et al., 2007). This condition involves free radicals which are unstable molecules that damage various cellular molecules and thus cause inflammation. It leads to several chronic diseases and aging (De Bont and Van Larebeke., 2004).

Cancer is prevented by IF (Siegel et al., 1998). It is defined as an uncontrolled division of cells. IF changes metabolism conditions in such a way that helps to prevent cancer. It also reduces several complexities and side effects of chemotherapy (Safdie et al., 2009).

Brain Health is improved by intermittent fasting by enhancing the growth of new nerve cells (Lee et al., 2000) and a brain hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (Mattson., 2005). BDNF prevents depression and several brain problems. Thus by increasing production levels of BDNF, brain health can be improved or brain damage can be reduced which is done by intermittent fasting. IF protects from neurodegenerative diseases, for example, Alzheimer’s Disease which is the world’s most common neurodegenerative disease. In several case studies, results of daily short-term fasts were observed concerning the cure of Alzheimer’s disease. The results showed a significant improvement in Alzheimer’s symptoms in 9 out of 10 patients (Bredesen., 2014).

IF also relates to Heart Health by improving various risk factors that cause heart disease. This disease is now the world’s biggest killer. These risk factors involve blood sugar levels, blood triglycerides, blood pressure, inflammatory markers, and LDL cholesterol (Varady et al., 2009).

IF helps you live longer by providing benefits for metabolism and improving all sorts of health markers. It has become incredibly famous among the anti-aging crowd. In several studies, it has been shown that fasted every other day lived 83% longer than those who did not fast (Goodrick et al., 1982).

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Plans for Intermittent Fasting.

There is plenty of flexibility in Intermittent fasting, which means you can fast for as long or short as you like but there are several side effects of long fasts while short fasts are the best regimens.

  • 16:8

This is also referred to as an 8-hour eating ‘window.’ It involves daily fasting for 16 hours. In this plan, you eat meals within the period of an 8-hour time while fasting for the remaining 16 hours. For example, you may eat between the period time of 11:00 am and 7:00 pm means you may skip breakfast or dinner instead. This typically involves eating either two or three meals within the period of this 8-hour.

  • 20:4

This is also referred to as a 4-hour eating window and a 20-hour fast. This involves eating between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. every day while fasting for the other 20 hours. In other words, this involves eating either one large and lengthy meal or two smaller meals within this period.

Recommended food while practicing IF plans.

It is essential to focus on healthy eating and to limit or avoid junk foods while practicing IF plans. The consumption of too much unhealthful food while practicing IF may cause weight gain and contribute to disease rather than weight loss and disease prevention. There must be consumption of a balanced diet such as:

  • Eat whole grains such as oats, quinoa, brown rice, and barley.
  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat healthy fats such as olive oil, fish, nuts, coconuts, avocados, and seeds.
  • Lean protein sources such as lentils, poultry, seeds, fish, beans, tofu, low-fat cottage, nuts, and eggs.

Tips while practicing IF.

  • Drink water regularly throughout the whole day.
  • Consume cinnamon herbal tea while practicing the fasting period. It helps in suppressing the appetite.
  • Do exercise just before or during the eating window because exercise stimulates hunger.
  • Practice meditation during the fasting period to allow hunger pangs to pass.
  • Practice mindful eating when eating meals.
  • Watch fewer television channels that are about cooking because it may stimulate a sense of hunger.

Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating where you eat only during a specific time window and involves cycling between periods of fasting and eating. This approach has several health benefits, including weight loss, reducing type 2 diabetes, reducing oxidative stress, preventing cancer, improving brain health, preventing heart disease, preventing Alzheimer’s disease, and extending lifespan. During the fasting period, your body slightly boosts metabolism and starts essential cellular repair pathways while altering levels of hormones to make stored body fat more metabolized. Intermittent fasting also stimulates a metabolic pathway called autophagy, which removes waste material from your cells. There are several plans for intermittent fasting, including the 16:8 plan which involves daily fasting for 16 hours and eating meals within an 8-hour time window. The 20:4 plan involves eating between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. every day while fasting for the other 20 hours. It is essential to focus on healthy eating and limit or avoid junk foods while practicing intermittent fasting. Drinking water regularly throughout the day, consuming cinnamon herbal tea during the fasting period, exercising just before or during the eating window, practicing meditation during the fasting period to allow hunger pangs to pass, practicing mindful eating when eating meals, and watching fewer television channels about cooking are some tips to follow while practicing intermittent fasting.

References:

  • Could Intermittent Energy Restriction and Intermittent Fasting Reduce Rates of Cancer in Obese, Overweight, and Normal-Weight Subjects? A Summary of Evidence.
  • Johnstone, A., 2015. Fasting for weight loss: an effective strategy or latest dieting trend? International Journal of Obesity, 39(5), pp.727-733.
  • Mansell, P.I., Fellows, I.W. and Macdonald, I.A., 1990. Enhanced thermogenic response to epinephrine after 48-h starvation in humans. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology, 258(1), pp. R87-R93.
  • Zauner, C., Schneeweiss, B., Kranz, A., Madl, C., Ratheiser, K., Kramer, L., Roth, E., Schneider, B. and Lenz, K., 2000. Resting energy expenditure in short-term starvation is increased as a result of an increase in serum norepinephrine. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 71(6), pp.1511-1515.
  • Barnosky, A.R., Hoddy, K.K., Unterman, T.G. and Varady, K.A., 2014. Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings. Translational Research, 164(4), pp.302-311.
  • Heilbronn, L.K., Civitarese, A.E., Bogacka, I., Smith, S.R., Hulver, M. and Ravussin, E., 2005. Glucose tolerance and skeletal muscle gene expression in response to alternate day fasting. Obesity Research, 13(3), pp.574-581.
  • De Bont, R. and Van Larebeke, N., 2004. Endogenous DNA damage in humans: a review of quantitative data. Mutagenesis, 19(3), pp.169-185.
  • Johnson, J.B., Summer, W., Cutler, R.G., Martin, B., Hyun, D.H., Dixit, V.D., Pearson, M., Nassar, M., Tellejohan, R., Maudsley, S. and Carlson, O., 2007. Alternate-day calorie restriction improves clinical findings and reduces markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in overweight adults with moderate asthma. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 42(5), pp.665-674.
  • Siegel, I., Liu, T.L., Nepomuceno, N. and Gleicher, N., 1988. Effects of short-term dietary restriction on survival of mammary ascites tumor-bearing rats. Cancer investigation, 6(6), pp.677-680.
  • Safdie, F.M., Dorff, T., Quinn, D., Fontana, L., Wei, M., Lee, C., Cohen, P., and Longo, V.D., 2009. Fasting and cancer treatment in humans: A case series report. Aging (Albany NY), 1(12), p.988.
  • Lee, J., Duan, W., Long, J.M., Ingram, D.K. and Mattson, M.P., 2000. Dietary restriction increases the number of newly generated neural cells, and induces BDNF expression, in the dentate gyrus of rats. Journal of Molecular Neuroscience, 15(2), pp.99-108.
  • Mattson, M.P., 2005. Energy intake, meal frequency, and health: a neurobiological perspective. Annu. Rev. Nutr., 25, pp.237-260.
  • Varady, K.A., Bhutani, S., Church, E.C. and Klempel, M.C., 2009. Short-term modified alternate-day fasting: a novel dietary strategy for weight loss and cardioprotection in obese adults. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(5), pp.1138-1143.
  • Bredesen, D.E., 2014. Reversal of cognitive decline: a novel therapeutic program. Aging (Albany NY), 6(9), p.707.
  • Goodrick, C.L., Ingram, D.K., Reynolds, M.A., Freeman, J.R. and Cider, N.L., 1982. Effects of intermittent feeding upon growth and life span in rats. Gerontology, 28(4), pp.233-241.

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