Intermittent fasting (IF) is a pattern of eating where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. It’s not about what you eat, but rather when you eat. Most of us fast every day when we sleep, and intermittent fasting can be as simple as extending this time a few hours. I’m going to highlight 5 evidence-based reasons why you should consider intermittent fasting.
#1: LIVE LONGER
By restricting your calories, you can potentially extend your lifespan and reduce the incidence of age-related disorders (1) like cardiovascular disease and diabetes! Limiting your calories without malnutrition, is the only experimental approach consistently shown to prolong survival in animal models (2). It’s important to maintain proper nutrition when we restrict our calories, because malnutrition is associated with increased disease. IF works by changing our gene expression and through the release of growth factors like growth hormone, insulin, and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). These growth factors, when elevated, are associated with aging and increased death in many animals (3).
#2: LOSE WEIGHT
There are several studies done in humans that show intermittent fasting leads to weight loss (4). By just changing the time you take your calories, without changing the amount of calories, you can lose weight, especially if you are overweight. When overweight participants took food between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. as compared to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., there were less hunger swings and their bodies were better able to burn fat (5). Most studies show a trend towards a significant decrease in weight and risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancers.
#3: SUPPORT HEALTHY MICROBIOME
I’ve talked a lot about the microbiome’s role in health and longevity. Our gut microbes have the capacity to effect the expressions of genes associated with longevity (6) and influence our cell’s mitochondrial function (7). Each of our cells contain a mitochondria within it where energy is produced, and a decline in mitochondrial quality and activity is associated with aging and age-related diseases. Through IF, you will increase gut bacteria richness, and this has so many health benefits (8).
#4: LOWER INFLAMMATION
Fasting has the capacity to lower inflammation in your body (9). This is significant because elevated inflammation is associated with a myriad of diseases including cardiovascular disease, autoimmunity, and depression.
#5: ENHANCE IMMUNITY
There is evidence that IF interacts with your immune system by stimulating immune cells8. It also has the potential, when used in conjunction with cancer treatments, to make chemotherapy and radiation therapies more effective (10).
Stay tuned for next week’s blog when I discuss strategies for integrating IF SAFELY into your lives.