Intermittent fasting is becoming increasingly popular. However, there are concerns about its health benefits due to a lack of research, despite evidence of its ability to reduce weight and improve health while protecting the body from chronic diseases. So, to understand how and why intermittent fasting does work, let us consider how it affects the body’s biological processes.
Intermittent fasting works. It works because it enhances the body’s physiological functions by activating rejuvenation and repair pathways, fortifying defenses against oxidative and metabolic stress, suppressing inflammation, and reducing risk factors. Furthermore, weight loss, its primary mechanism underlying its beneficial effects, lowers fasting plasma insulin levels and cardiovascular risk factors.
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What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is the dedicated voluntary restriction of feeding over a given period. It consists of voluntary fasting or reduced calorie intake and unrestricted calorie intake during the given period.
The most common types of intermittent fasting include time-restricted fasting, alternate-day fasting, and a 24-hour fast.
Time-restricted fasting restricts eating to specific hours while fasting the other hours of the day. The most common ways of practicing time-restricted fasting are the 16/8 and 14/10 methods. In the 16/8 method, practitioners eat for 8 hours daily while fasting for the day’s remaining hours (16 hours). With this method, most patients usually eat between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. In the 14/10 plan, patients eat for 10 hours daily, usually between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., while fasting for the remaining 10 hours.
Alternate-day fasting is eating one day and fasting the next day. It is also called “every-other-day fasting.”
The 24-hour fast is also known as the eat-stop-eat method. One fast for a full day and resume usual food intake until the next fast.
Purpose And Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
Most people engage in intermittent fasting for different reasons. First, as a component of every major religion, it is practiced for spiritual purposes.
Also, Philip Paracelsus, the founder of toxicology, once wrote that fasting is the most excellent remedy. Often, physicians encourage patients, especially obese ones, to engage in intermittent fasting for its vast benefits. Still, you will want to talk to your doctor before engaging in this type of weight-loss method.
Intermittent fasting prevents and reverses all significant biomarkers of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is the co-occurrence of three or more of the following five criteria:
- Waist circumferences greater than 40 inches and 35 inches in men and women, respectively
- Elevated plasma triglycerides greater than or equal to 150mg/dL
- High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) less than 40 mg/dL or 50 mg/dL in men or women, respectively
- High fasting blood glucose greater than or equal to l00 mg/dL
- High blood pressure greater than or equal to systolic 130 mmHg and or diastolic 85 mmHg.
Also, it suppresses inflammatory processes and stimulates the body’s rejuvenation and repair mechanisms. Ultimately, this limits the occurrence and progression of neurological diseases, cancers, arthritis, obesity, hypertension, and cardiovascular adverse events such as cardiac heart failure and coronary artery disease. A review of the role of intermittent fasting on health, aging, and disease concluded that it is associated with increased longevity, thereby leading to healthier aging.
In patients with diabetes, research has shown that intermittent fasting decreases insulin resistance, fasting blood glucose, and fasting insulin levels while increasing insulin sensitivity. In addition, when adhered to, it has been seen to cause diabetes remission. As always, talk to your doctor before starting any change in eating, especially if you have a disease like diabetes.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Primarily, intermittent fasting works by inducing ketosis (the process by which the body uses fat stores as its primary energy source). Ultimately, with time, ketosis leads to weight loss.
Ketosis is a normal physiological response by the body to low glucose levels. A low glucose level is common during periods of prolonged exercise, fasting, starvation, and carbohydrate restriction.
Therapeutically, clinicians recommend that patients should practice intermittent fasting to cause moderate weight loss. Research has shown that modest weight loss reduces cardiovascular risk factors and eliminates fatigue due to obesity while increasing cellular glucose consumption and efficiency.
Also, it further strengthens the body’s immunity through autophagy. Autophagy is the body’s rejuvenation and repair mechanism. It recycles damaged cell parts into fully functioning parts and enables the body to remove mutated cells and toxic proteins that may induce cancer(s) and neurological diseases. Also, autophagy allows the body to eliminate damaged cell parts and destroy pathogens.
Furthermore, research has shown intermittent fasting causes an altered metabolic state that enhances neuronal plasticity and resilience, thereby limiting the progression of neurological disorders.
For example, in the treatment of epilepsy, a two-month time-restricted fasting regimen in six children reported modest improvements in seizure control in four of the six children.
Is Intermittent Fasting Right For You?
Intermittent fasting is only right for some people, despite its widespread use and relative safety. As a result, clinicians advise patients to seek the advice of their primary care providers before engaging in it.
Clinicians, for example, do not recommend intermittent fasting for pregnant or breastfeeding women. They also don’t recommend it for people with kidney stones, diabetes, chronic hypertension, gastrointestinal reflux disease, or a history of eating disorders. Instead, these patients must consult with their physician and, if necessary, engage in intermittent fasting under their supervision. In addition, patients must consult with their physicians to avoid or minimize any adverse effects that may occur during the practice and to ensure the desired goals are met.
Some potential adverse effects of intermittent fasting include hypoglycemic crisis, malnutrition, significant weight loss, and dehydration. A hypoglycemic crisis is characterized by hunger, sweating, shakiness, fatigue, weakness, and poor concentration. In severe cases, confusion, coma, and seizures may occur.
In Conclusion: Why Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Intermittent fasting works by stimulating the body’s biological processes to improve cellular repair and rejuvenation while causing the body to use its fat stores as its primary source of energy. As a result, weight loss occurs due to using fat stores as the primary energy source.
Furthermore, weight loss also improves mental and physical agility and reduces risk factors for chronic diseases. However, it is only a good idea for some people. To begin, you should speak with your primary care physician.
So, are you considering getting into intermittent fasting? Or are you trying to convince a family member or friend to get into it? Let us know in the comments below.
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