A look at the science behind intermittent fasting

If you pay attention to health and weight loss trends, you’ve likely heard of intermittent fasting or IF. However you may feel about the “hanger” or potential stress of fasting, it’s hard to ignore the documented benefits of this dietary trend. In this article, you’ll discover the solid science that backs up those health claims. Next issue, we’ll review various popular intermittent fasting regimens, and I’ll share my thoughts on the right way to go about fasting.


1. Fasting helps your heart health
A scientific review in the British Journal of Diabetes and Vascular Disease suggests that fasting diets may help those with diabetes and cardiovascular disease, alongside established weight loss claims. Cardiac researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute (May 2011) have demonstrated that routine periodic fasting is good for our health and our hearts. This discovery expands upon a 2007 Intermountain Healthcare study that revealed an association between fasting and a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death among men and women in America. Fasting was also found to reduce other cardiac risk factors, such as triglycerides, weight and blood sugar levels.

2. It slows the aging process and boosts your metabolism
Both humans and mice that manage to live to a ripe old age show a clear change in their glucose metabolism, according to a study bythe American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (November 2007). Terry Combs and his colleagues report that changes in metabolism can indeed increase longevity. They discovered that long-lived mice burn less glucose and more fatty acids during periods of fasting, and, as a result, they produce fewer free radicals.

The key to this switch may be fasting and its associated adiponectin boost. Adiponectin is the hormone our body releases during exercise that burns fat, aids insulin balance and reduces inflammation. Researchers found that Snell mice had three times as much adiponectin in their blood as control mice; Snell mice also had fewer triglycerides in their cells, indicative of higher fat metabolism.

3. It helps keep you strong and lean via boosting growth hormone
Studies have clearly shown that our body responds to fasting by boosting growth hormone—the hormone that helps build muscle. Apparently, the hunger or stress caused by fasting leads the body to release more cholesterol, which allows it to utilize fatas a source of fuel, instead of glucose. Ultimately then, this decreases the number of fat cells in the body. Growth hormone protects the lean muscle and metabolic balance, a response triggered and accelerated by fasting. During the 24-hour fasting periods undertaken in the study, growth hormone increased an average of 1,300 per cent in women and nearly 2,000 per cent in men.

4. It improves blood sugar metabolism and Type 2 diabetes
A team led by James Brown from Aston University (April 2013) evaluated the various approaches to intermittent fasting in scientific literature. They searched specifically for the advantages and limitations in treating obesity and Type 2 diabetes using fasting diets. The basic format of intermittent fasting is to alternate days eating ‘normally’ with days when calorie consumption is restricted. This can either be done on alternate days (Day 1: eat normally/Day 2: restrict) or by designating two days within each as ‘fasting days.’ These types of intermittent fasting styles have been shown in trials to be as effective as or more effective than counting calories every day to lose weight. Evidence from clinical trials shows that fasting can limit inflammation, improve levels of sugars and fats in circulation by impacting adiponectin, and reduce blood pressure.


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About the Author

Dr. Natasha Turner

Dr. Natasha Turner

Dr. Natasha Turner is a New York Times bestselling author and one of North America’s leading naturopathic doctors, a sought-after speaker, natural health expert, and the founder of Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique in Toronto. In2014 she was recognized by her professional organization as a leader in her field and in 2016 was awarded the top […]

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