Weight loss alone would be a good enough reason to try intermittent fasting, but its benefits don’t stop there. It can make your brain sharper, your muscles bigger, and it might even help prevent disease and promote longevity. Sounds interesting, right? Let’s check out how it works.
It’s a good weight loss tool
Being in a fasted state lowers production of the fat storage hormone insulin, which is great especially for people already struggling with excess body fat. Having less time to eat during the day might also make you eat slightly less overall and it makes it easier to resist the temptations of addictive junk food during the fasted period since you have a clear rule – no food.
A 2014 review study found that intermittent fasting can help reduce body weight by 3-8% over a period of 3-24 weeks. Another study compared a reduced-calorie intermittent fasting regimen with a traditional diet plan and found that while participants lost comparable amounts of weight, the intermittent fasting group regained less weight after one year.
It helps build and preserve muscle
The human body raises the production of human growth hormone during fasted periods. This hormone plays a key role in muscle building and maintenance and might even have implications for longevity. One study found that intermittent fasting was as effective as daily caloric restriction for weight loss, but the intermittent fasted group retained more lean muscle mass.
It enhances cognitive performance
Fasting makes the body increase the production of yet another very valuable hormone, the brain-derived neurotropic factor, which is involved in growing new brain cells. Animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting can prevent short-term memory loss, reduce brain damage, and even help fight Alzheimer’s. We are still far from proving the same in humans, but there are already reports of people noticing better mental clarity while fasting.
It helps prevent diseases
A recent review of the literature found that intermittent fasting helped reduce visceral fat, fasting insulin, and insulin resistance as effectively as caloric restriction. This makes it a viable option for people fighting diabetes. Early research on heart health also suggests that intermittent fasting may improve risk factors like blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol. Similarly, cancer research on rat models found that after 16 weeks of intermittent fasting, the incidence of lymphoma in rats was 0% compared to 33% in the control group. Clearly, human trials are needed to make any serious claims, but the results in disease prevention are promising.
It almost seems too good to be true for such a simple dietary intervention to have so many benefits. But before you fully make your mind up, let’s look at the potential risks. We will take a critical look at intermittent fasting in the following article.