While many people all over the world fast for religious and cultural reasons, there are also proven health benefits of this practice, as long as you do it safely.
Heres what you need to know about the health benefits of fasting and the potential safety risks.
Fasting is when you do not eat for a certain period of time.
You can fast in several different ways. According to Andrew Wang, MD, PhD, a professor of immunobiology at Yale School of Medicine, the main types are:
Inflammation is your bodys natural response to infection. However, repeated exposure to pollution, sunlight, or even our bodys own metabolic processes can cause a state of chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation can damage healthy cells, tissues, and organs, and is associated with many diseases, including heart attacks and strokes.
There are a few ways fasting may reduce inflammation in the body:
When we age, our organs are prone to chronic inflammation called inflammaging, Wang says. Chronic inflammation can contribute to cognitive decline and dementia potentially due to plaque buildup in the brain. Fasting helps to counter this by reducing inflammation, Wang says.
Research suggests fasting can prevent the development of Alzheimers in animals. While the research has not yet been conducted in humans, a 2019 study found that intermittent fasting can slow cognitive decline and improve the symptoms of Alzheimers disease in mice.
However, the cognitive benefits of fasting are not restricted to the elderly. A small 2016 study tested amateur weightlifters after a 48 hour fast and found that fasting improved mental flexibility, which was defined as their ability to quickly and efficiently switch between tasks.
Fasting may also regulate blood sugar levels. Maintaining normal blood sugar is important to protect against diseases like type 2 diabetes.
Related Article Module: 6 ways to lower your blood sugar naturallyBlood sugar increases when you eat, so it naturally falls when you fast, Wang says. However, your body will prevent your blood sugar from dipping too much by making glucose itself. This keeps your blood sugar at a healthy level, which is considered above 70 mg/dL.
In fact, a small 2019 study of men at risk for type 2 diabetes found eating in a nine-hour window aka intermittent fasting helped improve glucose tolerance.
While research on this topic is limited, Wang says it is reasonable to assume that fasting boosts heart health by reducing inflammation and protecting against diabetes which are both risk factors for heart attacks and strokes.
A small 2012 study tested Muslims with a history of heart disease who fasted intermittently for Ramadan. After their fast ended, there was an improvement in their 10-year coronary heart disease risk score and a reduction in other heart risk factors like lipids profile, systolic blood pressure, and weight.
Fasting helps you lose weight by restricting the number of calories you eat. Intermittent fasting eating your meals in an eight-hour window earlier in the day helps with weight loss by keeping blood sugar levels lower in the evening when you are less active.
However, there is mixed evidence regarding if fasting for weight loss is more effective than a calorie-restricted diet. A 2015 review found intermittent fasting tends to lead to weight loss, with participants typically losing around seven to 11 pounds in 10 weeks. However, other studies found that intermittent fasting and calorie restriction were equally effective in helping people lose weight.
If youre looking to lose weight, talk to your doctor about the best method for you.
Fasting times can range significantly. While intermittent fasting usually involves fasting for about 16 hours a day, longer fasts can range from 24 to 72 hours.
Theres no magic amount of time you should fast for, Wang says. The best thing to do is to listen to your body and determine what type of fast works for you.
However, you should not fast if you are:
In addition, you should consult with your doctor before fasting if you are:
Fasting may offer health benefits, like reduced inflammation, better heart health, and improved cognitive functioning.
However, fasting is not advisable for certain people, and going too long without food can be harmful. If you are interested in fasting, it is important to listen to your body and ask your doctor if its safe to fast.
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Fasting may help you lose weight, reduce inflammation, and boost cognition - here's how to do it safely - Business Insider Australia