Intermittent Fasting: How Does It Help?

Approved by Consultant Nutritionist, Malavika Athavale.

Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a cycle of eating and fasting that is said to have numerous health benefits. Read more about IF here. This article lists the benefits associated with intermittent fasting and when they happen.

Mostly known for weight loss​2​, intermittent fasting isn’t just about that and brings with it a bunch of positive effects to our health.

Intermittent Fasting can help reduce obesity, hypertension, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, in addition to having the potential to delay ageing and help prevent and treat other diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cancers, heart disease and neurodegeneration among others.​3​

Obesity is a disorder when we have too much body fat (BMI of 30 or more), and is a risk factor in other disorders such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and high blood pressure.​4​ Intermittent fasting can help with reducing weight and helping those struggling with obesity to reach their ideal weights. ​2,3,5–11​

Insulin Sensitivity and Insulin Resistance are terms that refer to how well the cells in our body respond to insulin. If they respond well, sensitivity is high and resistance is low. If they do not respond well, resistance is high and sensitivity is low. ​12​ In those with Type 2 Diabetes, there is a high degree of insulin resistance among other causes that lead to high blood glucose levels.​13​ Intermittent fasting helps increase insulin sensitivity and can therefore be helpful to those with type 2 diabetes.​9,11,14–17​

Hypertension or High blood pressure refers to an abnormally high blood pressure. There are two varieties, primary and secondary. Primary hypertension, which is the most commonly seen variant, has no identifiable cause. Secondary hypertension is caused due to an underlying condition or medication, such as kidney disease or thyroid dysfunction.18 Intermittent Fasting can help in the reduction of hypertension. 3,8,9,11,17,19

Asthma is a condition recognisable by symptoms such as shortness of breath, tightness of the chest, wheezing and coughing among others. It is caused by the narrowing of airways in the lungs, which are further caused by their chronic or long term inflammation and subsequent swelling due to various factors.​20​ Intermittent Fasting can help those suffering from Asthma and other disorders related to inflammation such as rheumatoid arthritis.​3,8,17,21,22​

Heart disease, specifically some types of cardiovascular disease refer to a number of heart and related blood vessel conditions, each with a variety of causes. Intermittent fasting limits the risk factors for some of these diseases by improving lipid profile parameters, such as total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol. ​3,9,11,17​

Additionally, intermittent fasting has shown promise for those suffering from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases, as well as those with cancer. Additionally there is some evidence that intermittent fasting and caloric restriction can contribute to healthier ageing. ​3,11,17,23​

Given that intermittent fasting doesn’t present a physical or mental risk for most of us​1​, it might be a good idea to give it a shot and give ourselves a chance at better, longer, healthier lives.

References:

  1. 2.
    Johnstone A. Fasting for weight loss: an effective strategy or latest dieting trend? Int J Obes (Lond). 2015;39(5):727-733. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25540982.
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    Longo V, Mattson M. Fasting: molecular mechanisms and clinical applications. Cell Metab. 2014;19(2):181-192. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24440038.
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    Moores D. Obesity. HealthLine. https://www.healthline.com/health/obesity. Published July 16, 2018.
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    Johnson J, Summer W, Cutler R, et al. Alternate day calorie restriction improves clinical findings and reduces markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in overweight adults with moderate asthma. Free Radic Biol Med. 2007;42(5):665-674. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17291990.
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    Patterson R, Sears D. Metabolic Effects of Intermittent Fasting. Annu Rev Nutr. 2017;37:371-393. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28715993.
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    Tinsley G, La B. Effects of intermittent fasting on body composition and clinical health markers in humans. Nutr Rev. 2015;73(10):661-674. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26374764.
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    Faris M, Kacimi S, Al-Kurd R, et al. Intermittent fasting during Ramadan attenuates proinflammatory cytokines and immune cells in healthy subjects. Nutr Res. 2012;32(12):947-955. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23244540.
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    Malinowski B, Zalewska K, Węsierska A, et al. Intermittent Fasting in Cardiovascular Disorders-An Overview. Nutrients. 2019;11(3). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30897855.
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    Patterson R, Laughlin G, LaCroix A, et al. Intermittent Fasting and Human Metabolic Health. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015;115(8):1203-1212. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25857868.
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    Martens C, Seals D. Practical alternatives to chronic caloric restriction for optimizing vascular function with ageing. J Physiol. 2016;594(24):7177-7195. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27641062.
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    Gunnars K. Insulin and Insulin Resistance — The Ultimate Guide. HealthLine. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/insulin-and-insulin-resistance. Published July 24, 2019.
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    Pietrangelo A. Understanding Type 2 Diabetes. HealthLine. https://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes. Published May 28, 2019.
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    Harvie M, Howell T. Could Intermittent Energy Restriction and Intermittent Fasting Reduce Rates of Cancer in Obese, Overweight, and Normal-Weight Subjects? A Summary of Evidence. Adv Nutr. 2016;7(4):690-705. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27422504.
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    Halberg N, Henriksen M, Söderhamn N, et al. Effect of intermittent fasting and refeeding on insulin action in healthy men. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2005;99(6):2128-2136. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16051710.
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    Aksungar F, Sarıkaya M, Coskun A, Serteser M, Unsal I. Comparison of Intermittent Fasting Versus Caloric Restriction in Obese Subjects: A Two Year Follow-Up. J Nutr Health Aging. 2017;21(6):681-685. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28537332.
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    Mattson M, Longo V, Harvie M. Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes. Ageing Res Rev. 2017;39:46-58. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27810402.
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    Holland K. Everything You Need to Know About High Blood Pressure (Hypertension). HealthLine. https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension#symptoms-of-high-blood-pressure. Published February 1, 2018.
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    Michalsen A, Li C. Fasting therapy for treating and preventing disease – current state of evidence. Forsch Komplementmed. 2013;20(6):444-453. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24434759.
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    Mustafa SS, Ramsey A. Asthma. MedicineNet. https://www.medicinenet.com/asthma_overview/article.htm.
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    Johnson JB, Summer W, Cutler RG, et al. Alternate day calorie restriction improves clinical findings and reduces markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in overweight adults with moderate asthma. Free Radical Biology and Medicine. March 2007:665-674. doi:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2006.12.005
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    Aksungar F, Topkaya A, Akyildiz M. Interleukin-6, C-reactive protein and biochemical parameters during prolonged intermittent fasting. Ann Nutr Metab. 2007;51(1):88-95. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17374948.
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    Anton S, Leeuwenburgh C. Fasting or caloric restriction for healthy aging. Exp Gerontol. 2013;48(10):1003-1005. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23639403.

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