Fasting may provide several health benefits, including weight loss, blood sugar control, and protection against medical conditions like cancer and neurodegenerative disorders.
Despite its recent surge in popularity, fasting is a practice that dates back centuries and plays a central role in many cultures and religions.
Defined as abstinence from all or some foods or drinks for a set period, there are many different ways of fasting.
Generally, most fasts are performed over 24–72 hours.
Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting, ranging from a few hours to a few days at a time.
Fasting can have health benefits, such as increased weight loss and better brain function.
Here are eight health benefits of fasting — backed by science.
Several studies have found that fasting may improve blood sugar control, which may be helpful for those at risk of developing diabetes.
Decreasing insulin resistance can increase your body’s sensitivity to insulin, allowing it to transport glucose from your bloodstream to your cells more efficiently.
Coupled with the potential blood sugar-lowering effects of fasting, this could help keep your blood sugar steady, preventing spikes and crashes in your blood sugar levels.
However, additional studies are still needed to compare the effects of fasting with restricting calories.
Intermittent fasting and alternate-day fasting may help decrease blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance.
While acute inflammation is a natural immune process used to help fight off infections, chronic inflammation can seriously affect your health.
Some studies have found that fasting can help decrease levels of inflammation and promote better health.
Some studies have found that fasting along with resistance training could decrease several markers of inflammation and may be useful in treating inflammatory conditions.
Heart disease is considered the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for an estimated
Switching up your diet and lifestyle is one of the most effective ways to reduce your risk of heart disease.
Some research has found that incorporating fasting into your routine may be especially beneficial for heart health.
Fasting has been associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease and may help lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels.
Though research is mostly limited to animal research, several studies have found that fasting could have a powerful effect on brain health.
Because fasting may also help relieve inflammation, it could also aid in preventing neurodegenerative disorders.
However, more studies are needed to evaluate the effects of fasting on brain function in humans.
Animal studies show that fasting could improve brain function, increase nerve cell synthesis, and protect against neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s.
Many dieters experiment with fasting to try to lose weight.
Theoretically, abstaining from all or certain foods and beverages should decrease your overall calorie intake, which could lead to increased weight loss over time.
Fasting may increase metabolism and help reduce body weight and body fat.
Human growth hormone (HGH) is a protein hormone central to many aspects of your health.
Several studies have found that fasting could naturally increase HGH levels.
One review article noted that fasting for 37.5 hours can increase basal HGH concentrations by as much as ten times and also reduces the metabolic rate at which the body clears HGH.
Studies show that 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.
Several animal studies have found promising results on the potential lifespan-extending effects of fasting.
The researchers also noted an increase in sirtuins, proteins involved in metabolic regulation that are also associated with longevity.
However, further studies are needed to understand how fasting may impact longevity and aging in humans and which fasting plans are most effective.
Animal studies have found that fasting could delay aging and increase longevity, but human research is still lacking.
But they note that more high quality clinical trials are needed and recommend that people undergoing cancer treatment only do intermittent fasting as part of a clinical trial. For some situations and types of cancer, it could potentially have a negative effect.
Despite these promising findings, additional studies are needed to look at how fasting may influence cancer development and treatment in humans.
Some animal and test-tube studies suggest that fasting could block tumor development and increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
There are many different types of fasts, making it easy to find a method that fits your lifestyle.
Here are a few of the most common types of fasting:
- Water fasting: Involves drinking only water for a set amount of time.
- Juice fasting: This entails only drinking vegetable or fruit juice for a certain period.
- Intermittent fasting: Intake is partially or completely restricted for a few hours up to a few days at a time, and a regular diet is resumed on other days.
- Partial fasting: Certain foods or drinks such as processed foods, animal products, or caffeine are eliminated from the diet for a set period.
- Calorie restriction: Calories are restricted for a few days every week.
Within these categories are also more specific types of fasts.
For example, intermittent fasting can be broken down into subcategories, such as alternate-day fasting, which involves eating every other day, or time-restricted feeding, which entails limiting intake to just a few hours each day.
There are different ways to practice fasting, which makes it easy to find a method that fits into just about any lifestyle. Experiment with different types to find what works best for you.
Fasting may not be suitable for everyone and may cause side effects.
For example, if you have diabetes, fasting
It’s best to talk with a doctor first if you have any underlying health conditions or are planning to fast for more than 24 hours.
Additionally, if fasting for longer periods, try to minimize intense physical activity and get plenty of rest.
When fasting, be sure to stay hydrated, eat nutrient-dense foods, and get plenty of rest. It’s best to consult with a doctor before fasting if you have any underlying health conditions or are planning to fast for more than 24 hours.