The term “intermittent fasting” (IF) describes a variety of eating patterns in which an individual restricts calories for a given timeframe, which typically ranges from twelve hours to several days on a recurring basis. The current research suggests that IF optimizes physiological function, enhances performance, and can slow the aging and disease processes. But how does it do that?
- Autophagy: This is the body’s natural process that removes old, broken down dysfunctional cell parts and proteins, including cells that may become cancerous. Researchers believe that reducing the energy needed to process food allows the body to utilize those resources for autophagy, which may improve longevity and overall quality of health.
- Cancer Prevention: Though additional research is needed to better understand how IF can prevent cancer, researchers have observed that fasting results in a significant reduction of insulin growth factor (IFG-1), which has been linked to prostate and breast cancers.
- Immune Boost: Fasting stimulates stem cells to produce new white blood cells, which helps fight off infections and toxic stress such as during chemotherapy treatment.
- Decreases Insulin Resistance: Consuming carbohydrates causes the pancreas to produce insulin, a hormone that helps balance blood sugar levels. Though restricting calories benefits insulin sensitivity, IF does the same thing only better.
- Reset Your Taste Buds: Prolonged fasts can reset your urge to eat by increasing your sensitivity for sweet and salty tastes, thus reducing the urge to consume unhealthy, processed foods.
- Liver Health: Liver cells regenerate in the absence of food, which means that fasting may promote liver regeneration.
- Mental Focus: The current research suggests that fasting is associated with increased focus and clarity. Try delaying your first meal of the day to see if it benefits your early work activities.
- Metabolic Boost: Research shows that fasting can boost one’s metabolism by 14% within three days, which can aid in weight loss.
- Reduces Hunger: Fasting is associated with a reduction of ghrelin, a hormone released by the stomach that increases appetite.