Intermittent fasting (IF) is proving to be a simple and effective strategy for avoiding major dietary changes while achieving strong effects not just for one disease risk factor, but for an array of factors that constitutes the foundation for metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and possibly neurodegenerative diseases. Most importantly it is becoming a way of life for so many people.
Key benefits of intermittent fasting
1. Lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and strokes
IF has been shown to combat the worldwide problem of “Metabolic Syndrome” defined as having a high amount of visceral fat, combined with insulin resistance, elevated triglycerides, and/ or high blood pressure.
Having just one of these conditions doesn’t mean you have Metabolic Syndrome. However, any of these conditions increase your risk of serious disease. Having more than one of these might increase your risk even more.
Intermittent Fasting makes you more Insulin sensitive, the opposite of being insulin resistant, as well as being very effective at decreasing visceral fat and triglycerides. (1)
2. Supports the immune system
Fasting not only protects against immune system damage — a major side effect of chemotherapy — but also induces immune system regeneration, shifting stem cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal.
A recent study done by Valter D Longo, one of the leading researchers in fasting concluded that in mice and human, fasting lowered white blood cell counts, which in turn triggered the immune system to start producing new white blood cells. White blood cells (or lymphocytes) are a key component of your body’s immune system(2).
3. Stimulates autophagy, a process that keeps you healthy
On October 3rd, 2016, the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Yoshinori Ohsumi for his discoveries of mechanisms that underpin the process known as autophagy. (3)
Autophagy is a cellular maintenance process – stimulated by fasting – that is critical in disease resistance, longevity and general body and brain vitality.
How does it work? Your cells create membranes that hunt out scraps of dead, diseased, or worn-out cells; Autophagy then uses the resulting molecules for energy or to make new cell parts.
It’s like your bodies innate recycling mechanism. Autophagy makes us more efficient machines to get rid of faulty parts, stop cancerous growths, and stop metabolic dysfunction like obesity and diabetes.
There’s also evidence that the process plays a hand in controlling inflammation and immunity(4).
4. Slows down the ageing process
Now that you understand the process Autophagy, you can begin to understand why there is a large community of scientist who believe that fasting is the key for longevity.
Scientists have known since the 1930s that if they want to increase the lifespan of test rats, they put them on an intermittent fasting schedule like the alternate-day fasting method, whereby they eat normally one day and then fast the next.
Fasting reduces oxidative stress which is essentially an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralisation by antioxidants. It is one of the main factors that contributes towards ageing and many chronic diseases
like cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
Given the known benefits of metabolism and all sorts of health markers, it makes sense that intermittent fasting could help you live a longer and healthier life.
How long should the fast be to get these health benefits?
I believe that focusing on the above benefits can mean that this way of eating can become a sustainable and enjoyable way of life. It’s always better to do something for positive reasons, rather than negative reasons.
Disclaimer: Always consult your doctor if you're considering intermittent fasting.
To read more about intermittent fasting head over to Max's website at www.2mealday.com or check out his Instagram page @max.lowery.
Also check out our guide to Omega 3, intermittent fasting, keto and paleo.