How sensible fasting can keep you healthy
Studies suggest that intermittent fasting — typically, eating only during an eight-hour period or eating only every other day — could have many potential benefits, including improvements in glucose (blood sugar) and cholesterol levels, blood pressure and weight.
Done in a healthful way, intermittent fasting holds promise for controlling inflammation and lowering the risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even some cancers.
The benefits are thought to result from a process called metabolic switching, which is when the body goes into a fasting state and begins using body fat instead of glucose to meet its energy needs.
Intermittent fasting helps preserve the body’s normal interplay between the hormone insulin and blood glucose, preventing insulin resistance (when the body doesn’t respond properly to it).
Metabolic switching also signals the body to activate maintenance and repair systems, which aid in disease prevention.
Fortunately, science points to similar benefits simply from timing meals to align with your body’s circadian rhythm, the internal 24-hour clock that drives metabolism, sleep-wake cycles, the immune system and other body systems. Even incorporating just a few of these tips can help you maintain a healthy metabolism.
The holy month of Ramadan, which ended last month, is a time when Muslims must fast from dawn to dusk, and are encouraged to pray and worship more than other months of the year.
If you are like most people, you may be used to eating three meals each day. But there is little evidence that this is good for you. To the contrary, doing so may contribute to obesity and diabetes.
On the other hand, the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of intermittent fasting have been proven.
Fasting changes the function of cells, genes and hormones. When you don’t eat for a while, several things happen in your body. For example, your body initiates important cellular repair processes and changes hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible.
Fasting can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Oxidative stress is one of the steps towards aging and many chronic diseases.
It involves unstable molecules called free radicals, which react with other important molecules (like protein and DNA) and damage them. Several studies show that fasting may enhance the body’s resistance to oxidative stress.
Additionally, studies show that fasting can help fight inflammation, another key driver of all sorts of common diseases.
Fasting can reduce insulin resistance, lowering risk of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes has become incredibly common in recent decades. Its main feature is high blood sugar levels in the context of insulin resistance.
Anything that reduces insulin resistance should help lower blood sugar levels and protect against type 2 diabetes.
Interestingly, fasting has been shown to have major benefits for insulin resistance and lead to an impressive reduction in blood sugar levels.