The Benefits of Fasting
Fasting is a part of most cultures. What are its benefits?
Fast resort for health
Fasting has numerous health benefits. Take a look:
- Most amazing changes occur at the molecular and hormonal levels. Fasting impels the body to launch important cellular repair processes and alters hormonal levels to release stored body fat.
- Insulin levels in the blood drops to enable fat burning.
- The growth hormone in the blood increases to facilitate fat burning and muscle gain.
- The cellular repair process commences to help remove body waste.
- Genes and molecules associated with longevity and protection against diseases undergo beneficial changes.
- Intermittent fasting enhances hormone functions that facilitate weight loss by breaking down body fat. Apart from lowering insulin levels and increasing growth hormone levels, higher amounts of norepinephrine or noradrenaline help in breaking down fat needed for energy. Short-term fasting also results in you eating fewer meals, thus lowering the intake of calories. These steps push up your metabolic rate which in turn facilitates burning of more calories. From 3 weeks to 6 months you can lose 3-8% weight. Research reports that waist circumference also reduces by 4-7%. Loss of belly fat, which leads to several debilitating health conditions, is a great bonus! Moreover, while continuous calorie restriction leads to muscle loss, intermittent fasting resulted in less muscle loss.
- Since intermittent fasting reduces insulin resistance, it helps to lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes, especially in men. Studies have shown that both fasting blood sugar and fasting insulin levels are reduced.
- Fasting has been shown to reduce body inflammation, which leads to serious health conditions. It also enhances the body’s resistance to oxidative stress which causes many chronic diseases as well as aging.
- Heart health can be positively impacted by fasting. Animal studies have shown that fasting can improve several risk factors for heart diseases such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglycerides and inflammatory markers.
- Fasting improves cellular repair processes by initiating the metabolic pathway of ‘autophagy’ or removal of body wastes, which breaks down dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells over time. Increased autophagy protects the body against diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s.
- Fasting has been shown to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy in cancer patients.
- Intermittent fasting is known to enhance brain health by improving several metabolic processes and possibly by increasing the growth of new nerve cells. Fasting increases the brain hormone, BDNF or brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is helpful in depression and other brain issues. Fasting seems to protect brain damage due to strokes.
- Animal studies have shown that intermittent fasting has the ability to extend one’s lifespan.
- By removing toxins and improving organ function, fasting helps prevent acne and clears the skin.
Some precautions when fasting
- Fasting must be planned and executed carefully.
- The body goes into dehydration mode due to loss of fluids from food during fasting. Hence hydration is important.
- Fasting may lead to increased stress levels and loss of sleep in those who eat regular meals. Some get headaches.
- Fasting leads to heartburn and reduction in stomach acid. But even the smell of food will trigger more acid production, which is harmful for the stomach lining.
- Loss of fluids from the body results in reduced weight, but it is not actual weight loss.
- For some, fasting may lead to eating disorders or binge eating. Those with eating disorders should avoid fasting.
- Pregnant women or those who breast-feed, underweight individuals, those under 18, those recovering from a surgery and people with type 1 diabetes or stomach ulcers should not fast.
- Fasting must be done in consultation with your GP or a professional nutritionist and must be adhered to correctly.