December 6, 2020

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Overview: Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting (IF) is an innovative cyclic eating pattern that provides several health benefits to the human body.

Despite the hundreds of diets that emerge every year, intermittent fasting remains to be one of the most popular diets in the world. This is mainly the result of the non-restrictive nature of IF since people do not have to starve themselves or exclude any nutrients from their meals.

To start intermittent fasting, all you need to do is divide your day/week to:

  • Eating-window (the time you’re allowed to consume foods)
  • Fasting-window (the time you prohibited from consuming foods)

Additionally, there are no restrictions on the amount of food you’re allowed to eat. This is especially appealing for people who tried other diets.

While the concept of intermittent fasting may seem too simple to work, the positive health benefits of intermittent fasting are unequivocal.

With that out of the way, intermittent fasting is not without limitations that make it challenging to follow for a long time. These may include extreme hunger, plateauing of weight loss, and some side effects of caloric deficit.

We will discuss the benefits and potential side effects of intermittent fasting based on reputable scientific evidence.

What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?

I.F. promotes weight loss

Weight loss is the primary reason people start the intermittent fasting diet.

After decades of research and clinical trials, scientists managed to identify the following mechanisms that promote weight loss:

  • Caloric deficit
  • Efficient hormonal regulation
  • Reduced insulin resistance

Additionally, people following intermittent fasting have a faster basal metabolic rate (BMR), which accelerates weight loss.

To learn more about the connection between intermittent fasting and weight loss, check out this comprehensive blog post (insert link of the article).

I.F. decreases insulin resistance

Insulin resistance is the hallmark of type 2 diabetes, as well as weight gain and obesity.

Several studies found that IF is a great eating pattern to sensitize the cells to the action of insulin and reduce the risk of diabetes.

Therefore, if you are overweight or have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, intermittent fasting might just be the solution you’ve been looking for.

I.F. improves cardiovascular health

It increases the efficiency of the heart and reduces the risk of diseases, such as coronary artery disease (CAD).

Coronary artery disease describes the irreversible obstruction of the coronary artery that causes heart cells to die. If the condition doesn’t get treated promptly, patients develop what’s commonly referred to as a heart attack.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 18 million people die from cardiovascular disease every year.

Aside from reducing your risk of heart disease, IF will also make you more efficient during exercises. This will optimize your performance and physical health.

I.F. decreases the risk of some cancers

Cancer is a devastating condition that takes millions of lives every year.

The main pathological characteristic of cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells that destroy the surrounding tissues and organs.

Depending on the site and aggressivity of cancer, patients may quickly develop fatal complications, such as end-organ failure.

Since cancer occurs without warning or early signs, scientists are always on the look for potential risk factors that increase the risk of this condition. Additionally, eating patterns and lifestyle choices that reduce this risk are also on the top of research topics.

Fortunately, IF displayed positive effects in slowing down the growth of tumors and reducing the risk of new cancer cells.

We should note that the studies that found these results were conducted on laboratory animals (e.g., rats). Therefore, we cannot draw any conclusions from this data until further research is available.

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I.F. reduces oxidative stress

The balance between reactive oxygen species (i.e., free radicals) and antioxidants gets closely monitored by the cell to prevent injury.

These free radicals are usually an effective weapon against harmful pathogens (e.g., bacteria, viruses) that try to destroy our cells. However, they can also wreak havoc on our organs in the absence of proper checkpoints.

Unfortunately, many people are now dealing with excessive amounts of free radicals that precipitate a metabolic state known as oxidative stress.

Consequently, the body will be subject to multiple pathologies, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, infections, and neurodegenerative ailments (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease).

According to one study, scientists found that intermittent fasting significantly reduces the number of free radicals in the body.

In other words, adopting IF protects you against many disease processes.

The side effects of intermittent fasting

Despite the evidence that showcases the safety of intermittent fasting, there are some side effects that usually surface during the first few days of starting the diet.

Symptoms, such as mood swings, heartburn, constipation, fatigue, insomnia, and anemia, have all been reported in people on IF.

The slowdown of weight loss

This is perhaps the primary reason many people abandon intermittent fasting since weight loss gradually slows down until you hit a plateau.
For this reason, many nutrition and fitness gurus consider intermittent fasting to be a way to jumpstart your weight loss journey rather than a long-term solution.

Low compliance rate

According to research papers, a substantial number of people quit IF due to persistent feelings of hunger and cravings.

Furthermore, people on IF tend to reward themselves after fasting, which often leads to overcompensation and indulging in unhealthy lifestyle habits during the non-fasting window.

Takeaway message: Intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is a fantastic diet that offers a myriad of health benefits to the human body and reduces the risk of numerous ailments.

Hopefully, this article managed to shed some light on IF, its benefits, and potential side effects. If you still have any questions regarding this topic, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section below.

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Steven Rinker

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