For whatever reason, Fasting (the willful refrainment from eating for a period of time) has been spiking in popularity over the past 2-3 years:
If you’re wondering why so many people are fasting nowadays, this article is a list of all the different benefits fasting can bring, from a number of health professionals. We’ve received 8 great responses to the question of why fasting can be good for you, and have listed them below (if you’re qualified to speak on fasting, you can also make a submission here and we’ll add it to this article).
In my view, the most succinct and best comments on the benefits of fasting that have been submitted to us are from Dr. Rashmi Byakodi (a health writer), Dr. Chris Norris (a chartered
physiotherapist and neurologist) and Michael Julom (a CrossFit athlete who follows an intermittent fasting diet).
Fasting is practiced from olden days and plays a major role in many different cultures. Fasting can be defined as the avoidance of all or some types of food and drinks for a set period of time. Health benefits include:
1. Fasting improves your ability to fight against inflammation. According to studies, fasting may decrease several markers of inflammation and is useful in treating inflammatory conditions. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4899145/)
2. Fasting helps to reduce insulin resistance and weight gain. Fasting triggers the shift of metabolism from lipid/cholesterol synthesis and fat storage to the mobilization of fat through fatty acid oxidation and fatty-acid derived ketones, which serve to preserve muscle mass and function. In turn liver glycogen stores are depleted and fatty acids are mobilized. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5783752/)
3. Fasting promotes heart health. According to studies, fasting brings a significant decrease and normalization of blood pressure, decreases the level of bad cholesterol, and thus enhances heart health. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17929537)
4. Fasting can delay the aging effects and increases life span. According to studies, fasting can effectively increase your longevity. But, more research is needed in this regard. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7117847/)
--Dr. Rashmi Byakodi, Best for Nutrition
Fasting is a practice that has been associated with a wide array of potential health benefits, including weight loss, as well as improved blood sugar control, heart health, brain function and cancer prevention.
From water fasting to intermittent fasting and calorie restriction, there are many different types of fasting that fit nearly every lifestyle.
When coupled with a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle, incorporating fasting into your routine could benefit your health.
People who can benefit from fasting
There is some good scientific evidence suggesting that circadian rhythm fasting, when combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle, can be a particularly effective approach to weight loss, especially for people at risk for diabetes. (However, people with advanced diabetes or who are on medications for diabetes, people with a history of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, and pregnant or breastfeeding women should not attempt intermittent fasting unless under the close supervision of a physician who can monitor them.)
Benefits of fasting
1. Promotes Blood Sugar Control by Reducing Insulin Resistance - Intermittent fasting and alternate-day fasting could help decrease blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance but may affect men and women differently.
2. Promotes Better Health by Fighting Inflammation - fasting could decrease several markers of inflammation and may be useful in treating inflammatory conditions, such as multiple sclerosis.
3. May Enhance Heart Health by Improving Blood Pressure, Triglycerides and Cholesterol Levels - Fasting has been associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease and may help lower blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol levels.
4. May Boost Brain Function and Prevent Neurodegenerative Disorders - fasting could improve brain function, increase nerve cell synthesis and protect against neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s.
5. Aids Weight Loss by Limiting Calorie Intake and Boosting Metabolism - Fasting may increase metabolism and help preserve muscle tissue to reduce body weight and body fat.
6. Increases Growth Hormone Secretion, Is Vital for Growth, Metabolism, Weight Loss and Muscle Strength - fasting can increase levels of human growth hormone (HGH), an important protein hormone that plays a role in growth, metabolism, weight loss and muscle strength.
7. Could Delay Aging and Extend Longevity - fasting could delay aging and increase longevity, but human research is still lacking.
8. May Aid in Cancer Prevention and Increase the Effectiveness of Chemotherapy -fasting could block tumor development and increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
--Dr Chris Norris, Sleep Standards
12 hours after its last nutrient intake (the last time somebody ate), the body will enter into a fasted state. During a fast, several things happen to the human body at the molecular and cellular level. Some of the benefits include:
1. Insulin sensitivity improves, and all levels of insulin drop. This can aid in reversing the effects of related diseases like diabetes, alongside making body fat stores more accessible. Extra energy will be released, meaning that athletic performance and perception of fatigue should improve.
2. Human Growth Hormone (HGH) levels increase, which can be quite drastic, with levels increasing by as much as a multiple of five. HGH is crucial for skeletomuscular maintenance and hypertrophy, so increased production will make muscle gains and strength adaptation that much more efficient.
3. Cells repair in the absence of the digestive process, including the digestion and removal of dysfunctional, old proteins that build up within cells. This can aid in offsetting some of the fatiguing side-effects of hard physical activity and should speed up recovery.
4. Several of the metabolic features improved by intermittent fasting can lead directly to improved brain health. This includes reduced oxidative stress and inflammation, as well as a reduction in blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. Animal studies have shown that intermittent fasting may even assist the growth of new nerve cells, which could provide benefits to the brain’s synapse function.
5. The hormone BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) is also increased by intermittent fasting. A deficiency of BDNF has been linked with degenerative conditions and depression.
What kinds of people might it be recommended for?
Fasting can be very beneficial for those suffering digestive or gastric discomfort, as fasting periods allow the digestive tract to rest. It is good for those looking to overcome type II diabetes, due to the improved insulin resistance, for those looking to lose weight, put on muscle mass, or both, for a recomposition, and for those looking to increase mental alertness or wellbeing, due to the increase in BDNF.
--Michael Julom, ThisIsWhyImFit.com
Fasting puts the body into autophagy. Autophagy repairs DNA and organelles (parts of the cell that have very specific functions) which allows cells to prepare for healthy replication.
Replication is important because it helps replace damaged organelles with healthy ones. Damaged organelles are contributing factors to chronic diseases, such as cancer and inflammatory diseases. AS we age, it is harder for our cells to replicate. That is why fasting is really great for the 50+ crowd.
Fasting will result in weight loss and that is why most people do it. But there are many other benefits.
One study conducted by the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA, found that short-term fasting induced autophagy in the brain. This may reduce the risk for neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
--Heather Donahue, CHN, Heather's Health Habits
Firstly, fasting promotes weight loss, which subsequently lowers your risk for comorbidities such as obesity, heart disease, and stroke. Fasting can also help improve symptoms of chronic diseases, such as https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/534318. Although I think anyone can benefit from practicing intermittent fasting - at least on occasion - I would strongly suggest people who are struggling with weight loss to try it. For many, it's a simpler alternative to counting macros and nutrients and planning out an entire strict regiment of eating - fasting can kickstart your weight loss while you figure out your diet.
--Gabriello Ianniruberto, Anabolic Bodies
I've been fasting every day for the past 5 years and have seen great results with it in terms of weight loss and management, as well as seeing an increase in productivity, so I feel like I have a lot to say about the actual benefits of intermittent fasting.
I've found that combining exercise and intermittent fasting is the perfect 1-2 punch, and there's proof to why this is:
A study was done by Mark Mattson, Cheif of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging, and he found that exercise and intermittent fasting, when done together, increases the production of proteins in the brain that are called neurotrophic factors.
These neurotrophic factors enhance their functionality and bolster their resistance to stress, injury and disease.
Essentially, when you start switching constantly from being in a fasted state to exercising (a challenge to the brain), followed by a recovery period, your brain may become more resilient as a result and increase lifespan.
All this is to say that if you repeatedly challenge your brain (fasting and exercising), your brain becomes stronger and better at those challenges, making you better, and in my experience, I have seen this happen for the past 5 years.
--Christian Pinedo, Lean With Style
Fasting provides the body with a number of metabolic benefits. Lower blood sugar, higher insulin sensitivity, more fat burning, more ketone production, and autophagy (aka cellular clean-up). That being said, fasting is not for everyone. While some people are capable of doing longer fasts, some people are not setup metabolically to do more than 10-12 hours. You don't want to sink your blood sugar so low that you can't literally stand up and it causes you to feel light headed and even sick. Even people who are in good metabolic shape can over fast. Too much fasting has been associated with higher stress hormone production, lower testosterone, and can compromise your liver's ability to properly detox.
--Erik Levi, HolisticNootropics.com
Fasting is not something to do all the time, as your body needs calories and nutrients in order to survive and thrive. Yet there are certain benefits of fasting when done correctly and in proper time intervals. For instance, intermittent fasting helps your body burn through fat more quickly, thereby aiding in weight loss. Fasting also boosts your insulin sensitivity, which lets your body better tolerate carbs. Also, fasting gives your digestive system a bit of a break, which helps boost your metabolism.
Therefore, fasting is good for people who want to lose weight, improve their eating, and help understand their body’s true needs.
--Linda Morgan, Motivation Nook
There is a growing amount of scientific evidence that suggests that intermittent fasting can be a sustainable way to boost your metabolism and stimulate weight loss.
While more long term studies need to be done, many short-term studies have shown that practicing intermittent fasting can be an effective way to improve your health in several different ways. Intermittent fasting could help increase insulin resistance, reduce blood fat abnormalities, and lower blood pressure and inflammation.
When you’re not fasting, you should try to maintain a reasonably healthy diet. If you decide to binge on pizza and ice cream once you’re done fasting, you’ve probably wasted your time. Intermittent fasting isn’t a magic fix to a terrible diet.
While intermittent fasting is one of our favorite ways to supplement our fitness routines, it’s not for everyone. If you decide to try it, give it time to do its thing. Remember that your body will need time to adjust to the new eating schedule. And be patient! It typically takes at least four weeks of intermittent fasting to start to see visible results.
--Ryan H, Centric Wear
Fasting has been practiced by multiple societies, cultures and religions for centuries. Fasting was not always about losing weight, but rather for the health benefits it provided such as detoxification, acidity etc. (see the history of fasting)
What we know in today's world about intermittent fasting is largely focused on the weight loss aspect of it. Intermittent fasting as a diet is unique because it does not force you to follow a diet in a certain way, rather it provides you a framework to think about how to structure your digestive system of your body to maximize your metabolism without sacrificing too much of your lifestyle. Since it is a frame work and not a forceful diet, sustainability of this diet through a long period of time is possible.
What I mean by a framework is that in Intermittent fasting, we are told there is a fasting window and an eating window. Then, you're explained the science of how your body goes into autophagy with higher insulin sensitivity, causing your fat burning mechanism to increase. Once you understand that mechanism, you can focus your efforts on figuring out the right windows, whether you want to fast for 16 hours or 14 hours is totally up to you and depending on what your schedule for the day looks like. In this way, I really find intermittent fasting to be the most sustainable way of sticking to a diet over multiple years.
--Rohit Ganpathi, manmatters.com
My spouse and I are the authors of a successful aging blog, AgingWithFreedom.com. We are 60ish. I am above that threshold. My wife a couple of years behind me in age. Our shared trifecta goals are High Wealth, High Health, High Purpose. None of these are absolute values, but enough of each to create Freedom of choice. And a happy, successful third act in retirement.
As part of our research, we've followed and read a variety of experts on longevity. With a special emphasis on sustaining health deeper into life rather than just accepting a long decline into debilitating comorbidities. (Morbidity Compression)
We share our journey from work-life to retirement and lessons learned in our Aging With Freedom blog.
Some of our favorite longevity sources, all with a strong focus on diet, including the value of fasting: Dr. Peter Attia, https://peterattiamd.com/
Lifespan: Why We Age―and Why We Don't Have To, by David A. Sinclair PhD and Matthew D. LaPlante
The End of Alzheimer's: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline, by Dale Bredesen
It's now apparent that much of the dietary advice Baby Boomers heard for their entire life was just wrong. Wildly wrong.
It was never the fat (cholesterol). It was the carbohydrates and sugars that fueled the obesity epidemic.
That's not to say there aren't some bad fats to eat. We avoid transfats. But low-fat diets? Nope. Try low-carb.
We're focused on real, whole foods. Not processed. And fundamentally changing the relative mix compared to the famous USDA food pyramid and the traditional American diet. More vegetables. Less animal protein. Much less dairy and cheese. That's a hard give-up as I love cheese. But I see less joint inflammation from osteoporosis as a result.
And not only does it matter what you eat. But the evidence is mounting. It also matters when you eat. The emerging science on intermittent fasting and calorie deprivation demonstrate health and longevity benefits by a variety of measures. Everything from cross-cultural studies to cellular-level metabolic process analysis.
The goal? Reduced inflammation, avoiding insulin resistance, and improving overall health.
We are now following an intermittent fasting regimen. Everyday 16-hour fast between dinner and literally "break fast". That means dinner at 5:30-6:00 PM and breakfast at 10:00 AM or later the next day. That's a hard, new habit after growing up on three square meals a day. We're not perfect in observance. You don't have to be perfect every day to see benefits.
The goal is more longevity and morbidity compression than weight loss. But we're both down in weight. I moved easily below a setpoint that defied exercise and diet for ten years. Lost 30 lbs in six months now 6' 1" and 194 lbs. Still have another five or ten to go to be within the normal BMI range. But making progress.
My wife is barely above her slender high school weight. Squarely in normal BMI. Show-off.
I've been able to drop one of my blood pressure medications.
We're learning new vocabulary words. Ketosis. autophagy, microbiome, and a whole host of hormones and proteins involved in regulating the life of our bodies and cells.
And we've added longer 48-hour to 72-hour fasts once a quarter. (Goal is once a month.) Currently at the start of a 72-hour fast (3-days). Began the morning with a 7-mile walk rather than breakfast. Trying to burn through the sugars early and get to ketosis or fat-burning faster. It's not as bad as it sounds.
There's some mental discipline required. And fasting isn't right for everyone. We debated depleting our energy reserves during the COVID pandemic. But concluded we're in relative social and rural isolation so at low risk of coronavirus exposure.
We see benefits from intermittent fasting in improved energy, mental clarity, less joint pain, reduced weight, reduced blood pressure, and longevity. These results are obviously anecdotal. We're not part of a controlled study. But our personal efforts are directed by the controlled studies we read. And follow the practices of experts with substantial medical and scientific credentials.
--Daniel Pitts Winegarden, Aging With Freedom