22 Oct Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a timed approach to eating that involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting. There are many different methods of intermittent fasting, including the 16-2 Method and the 5-2 Diet. Some methods like alternate-day fasting involve fasting only certain days, while others like the Warrior Diet involve fasting all day and feasting at night within a four-hour eating window.
Many people choose to engage in popular methods of intermittent fasting to simplify their daily routine, improve their overall health, minimize the effects of aging, or simply lose weight. For those ready to start fasting, it’s important to consult with Jesal V. Popat, M.D., the best heart doctor in Tampa Bay, to identify your health goals, choose the appropriate method, and figure out a meal plan that works best for you. To help you decide whether or not you should incorporate intermittent fasting into your lifestyle, we’ll review the number of key health benefits associated with this approach to eating.
Changes to the Function of Cells, Genes, and Hormones
One of the most interesting health benefits of intermittent fasting is that it can affect the function of your cells, genes, and hormones. This is because your body fat is the body’s way of storing your energy. When you don’t eat anything during fasting, your body makes a number of changes to make this stored energy more accessible, and you enter into a fat-burning metabolic state known as ketosis rather than your usual carb-burning state.
This state is characterized by the production of ketones that may serve as signaling molecules that can modify the activity of proteins and change gene expression associated with the metabolism of fats. Below, we’ve outlined two metabolic changes that can occur as a result of intermittent fasting:
- Insulin: Your insulin levels increase when you eat, so by fasting, you may experience a dramatic decrease in your insulin levels and improved insulin sensitivity. Reduced levels of insulin also make your stored body fat more accessible.
- Human growth hormone (hGH): Your blood levels of the growth hormone may increase as much as 5-fold as a result of intermittent fasting. This is important as increased levels of this hormone facilitate fat burning and muscle gain.
Most people who choose to incorporate intermittent fasting into their lifestyle are doing so for the purpose of losing weight. This is because, if done correctly, intermittent fasting can easily help you reduce calories and burn fat. All of the benefits previously discussed, like lower insulin levels and higher growth hormone levels, increase the breakdown of stored body fat and facilitate its use for energy.
That being said, this only works if you’re not compensating for the fasting periods by eating much more food during your eating windows. Any weight loss you experience is always going to be facilitated by an overall reduction in your calorie intake. Short-term fasting also has the potential to increase your metabolic rate by anywhere from 3-14 percent, helping you burn even more calories.
Improved Heart Health
Last but certainly not least, intermittent fasting can lead to significant improvements in your heart health. Studies have shown that this approach to eating has the capacity to improve numerous risk factors for heart disease, including blood pressure, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, total and LDL cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Regular fasting is also associated with lower rates of heart failure and a longer life span. For example, routine fasters in a 2019 study had a 71 percent lower rate of developing heart failure when compared to non-fasters.
Other health benefits associated with intermittent fasting include protection against cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, improvement in various metabolic features known to be important for brain function, and reduction in oxidative stress. If you’re looking to reap any of the benefits of intermittent fasting but don’t know where to start or aren’t sure which method would work best for you, don’t hesitate to get into contact with Jesal V. Popat, M.D., a nutrition-focused Tampa heart doctor.
To consult with Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC, a cardiologist in Tampa, FL, please call (813) 344-0934 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.
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