10 Benefits To Supercharge Your Health With Intermittent Fasting

 10 Benefits To Supercharge Your Health With Intermittent Fasting:

Hi, this is Galit Goldfarb, nutritionist, and medical scientist. Welcome to my blog where you will find great articles to help you transform your health quickly through practical lifestyle changes based on science. My articles will guide you, step-by-step, to lasting weight loss and better health for you and your family no matter your current situation.

Today I want to introduce another lifestyle change that has been shown to have many health benefits and in particular, with weight loss.

The lifestyle change I am referring to is known as intermittent fasting.

In my clinic and throughout my health and weight loss programs, my clients go on a regular fast of 12-13 hours almost every single day! In fact, if you know what to do, this lifestyle change is quite effortless to incorporate into your life and has many benefits for your health and waistline.

Fasting as a method of healing has been around for many years. When I began alternative nutrition studies, in 1992, before I went to university to study nutrition, biochemistry and medical science for my three degrees, I learned from books written by Dr. Henry Lindlahr, author of the backbone texts of naturopathic medicine, I found out of the power of fasting.

Over the years, much research has come out on this subject, and most scientists agree that intermittent fasting of 12 hours – 24 hours has shown beneficial effects on various chronic diseases including rheumatic diseases, metabolic disease, ongoing pain, hypertension, chronic inflammatory diseases, atopic diseases, and even psychosomatic disorders (1).

My research into the ideal diet for humans, which I later named The Guerrilla Diet, because I had to combat all I was taught and thought was healthy to eat, also led me to examine research observing behaviors of hunter-gatherer populations. Ancient humans living on the savanna grasslands of Africa were fasting regularly from before sunset, when they were getting organized for sleep, until after sunrise, when they would get up in search of food.

In Africa, where these ancient humans resided, the dark hours of the night and twilight hours typically last for 12 hours all year round. Therefore, the fasting of 12-13 hours was their daily norm.

But how does in intermittent fasting lead to all of these benefits?

The body enters starvation mode about eight hours after the last meal is eaten when the gut finishes absorbing the nutrients from the food consumed.

When eating regularly, dietary and body glucose, which is stored in the liver and muscles, is used as the primary source of energy. Our liver holds our reservoir of glucose in the form of glycogen. Fasting typically depletes liver glycogen, and fat becomes the next energy source for the body.

The breakdown of fatty tissue into free fatty acids produces ketone bodies which are used as an alternate energy source.

The brain relies on these ketone bodies which are produced in liver cells for energy consumption.

During prolonged fasting of more than two days, the body starts breaking down protein (e.g. muscle tissue) for energy, and therefore intermittent fasting is recommended as opposed to prolonged fasting.

The fast I recommend has positive results with my clients, and lasts for 12-13 hours, from the last meal consumed at night to the first meal eaten in the day. Even if you finished your last meal at 10:30 PM, no problem, just eat your first meal (breakfast) no earlier than 10:30 AM, but also not much later than 11:30 AM.

This provides a gentle transition from using glucose as the primary source of energy to using fat, and back to using glucose. This cycle prevents the breakdown of muscle for energy while helping in the process of weight loss. The depletion of glycogen from liver cells leads to the breakdown of fats resulting in a reduction in body fat.

But weight loss is just one of the benefits of intermittent fasting.

Although losing weight also helps reduce cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure, helps control diabetes and reduces inflammation from active fatty tissue, fasting has other benefits.

Here are 9 more health benefits associated with intermittent fasting:

1. When doing regular fasts, your body will release more endorphins into the blood, making you feel happier and more alert. Brain function is optimized, and from an evolutionary standpoint, this implies that maintenance of high cognitive function when food is scarce is of utmost importance for survival.

2. Ketone bodies protect cells from aging by the donating carbon sources which provide nourishment for cells while reducing cellular aging. [4]

3. Intermittent fasting also modifies peripheral energy metabolism. The brain communicates with all of the peripheral organs involved in energy metabolism and enhances parasympathetic activity, the body’s unconscious actions involved in “rest-and-digest” or “feed and breed”[2] activities that occur while at rest. During fasting, this results in improved gut motility, reduced heart rate, and reduced blood pressure.

4. Intermittent fasting enhances insulin sensitivity of muscle and liver cells when eating reducing the risk for diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

5. Intermittent fasting also reduces levels of oxidative stress and inflammation throughout the body and brain. The reduction of inflammation in the brain has been shown in animal models to lead to fewer clinical symptoms of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease [6], as well as stroke [7] and epileptic seizures [8] in humans.

6. Intermittent fasting has also been shown to prolong the lives of rats. [5] In humans this effect occurs through the increase in human growth hormone with intermittent fasting, which maintains health, fitness, and longevity, and promotes the growth of muscle mass while increasing fat loss.

7. Intermittent fasting has positive effects on diabetes. Hyperglycemia is improved, and insulin sensitivity is increased. [9]

8. In rodents, intermittent fasting has been shown to have positive effects on heart disease and to prevent or reverse multiple sclerosis. [10], [11]

9. We know that an impaired gut microbiota is a major factor in the pathogenesis of weight gain and other disorders. See my article on the subject HERE. Intermittent fasting affects the gut microbiome by helping a healthy group of mucin-degrading microbes to thrive. [12]

Although there are many benefits to intermittent fasting, I do not recommend it to certain populations where it may have adverse effects including normal and low weight children, the elderly or individuals with a BMI of 19 or less.

Now I know that for some it may seem difficult to stop eating for prolonged hours. It was difficult for me at first, and this is why it’s important for me to mention that hunger is an adaptive response, meaning that the body adapts to an environmental demand. Once your body gets used to this pattern of eating, and then fasting, and then eating again, this new habit will become easy to commit to and will provide you with many health benefits. Give it a try!

Feel free to comment below and let me know what you liked best about this article.

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References:

  1. Michalsen A, Li C. Fasting therapy – an expert panel update of the 2002 consensus guidelines. Forsch Komplementmed. 2013;20(6):434-43. doi: 10.1159/000357602.
  2. McCorry, LK. “Physiology of the autonomic nervous system.”. American journal of pharmaceutical education. 2007; 71 (4): 78. doi:10.5688/aj710478. PMID 17786266.
  3. Weindruch R, Sohal RS. Seminars in medicine of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Caloric intake and aging. N Engl J Med. 1997;337:986–994.
  4. Weindruch R, Walford RL. The retardation of aging and disease by dietary restriction. Springfield, Ill., U.S.A: C.C. Thomas; 1988.
  5. Varady KA, Hellerstein MK. Alternate-day fasting and chronic disease prevention: a review of human and animal trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;86:7–13.
  6. Halagappa VK, Guo Z, Pearson M, Matsuoka Y, Cutler RG, Laferla FM, Mattson MP. Intermittent fasting and caloric restriction ameliorate age-related behavioral deficits in the triple-transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Neurobiology of disease. 2007;26:212–220.
  7. Arumugam TV, Phillips TM, Cheng A, Morrell CH, Mattson MP, Wan R. Age and energy intake interact to modify cell stress pathways and stroke outcome. Annals of neurology. 2010;67:41–52.
  8. Hartman AL, Rubenstein JE, Kossoff EH. Intermittent fasting: A “new” historical strategy for controlling seizures? Epilepsy research. 2013;104(3):275-279. doi:10.1016/j.eplepsyres.2012.10.011.
  9. Pedersen CR, Hagemann I, Bock T, Buschard K. Intermittent feeding and fasting reduces diabetes incidence in BB rats. Autoimmunity. 1999;30:243–250.
  10. Ahmet I, Wan R, Mattson MP, Lakatta EG, Talan M. Cardioprotection by intermittent fasting in rats. Circulation. 2005;112:3115–3121.
  11. Castello L, Froio T, Maina M, Cavallini G, Biasi F, Leonarduzzi G, Donati A, Bergamini E, Poli G, Chiarpotto E. Alternate-day fasting protects the rat heart against age-induced inflammation and fibrosis by inhibiting oxidative damage and NF-kB activation. Free Radic Biol Med. 2010;48:47–54.
  12. Remely M, Hippe B, Geretschlaeger I, Stegmayer S, Hoefinger I, Haslberger A. Increased gut microbiota diversity and abundance of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and Akkermansia after fasting: a pilot study. Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2015 May;127(9-10):394-8.

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