Despite its recent surge in popularity, fasting is a practice that dates back centuries and plays a central role in many cultures and religions.
Fasting is the abstinence from all or some foods or drinks for a set period, and there are many different ways of fasting.
In general, most fasts are performed over 24–72 hours.
On the other hand, intermittent fasting involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting, ranging from a few hours to a few days.
Fasting has been shown to have many health benefits, from increased weight loss to better brain function.
Here are five benefits of fasting.
Promotes blood sugar control by reducing insulin resistance
Several studies have found that fasting may improve blood sugar control, especially useful for those at risk of diabetes.
One study in 10 people with type 2 diabetes showed that short-term intermittent fasting significantly decreased blood sugar levels.
Decreasing insulin resistance can increase your body’s sensitivity to insulin, allowing it to transport glucose from your bloodstream to your cells more effectively.
Promote better health by fighting inflammation
While acute inflammation is a normal immune process used to help fight off infections, chronic inflammation can have severe consequences for your health.
Research shows that inflammation may be involved in developing chronic conditions, such as heart disease, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.
May Enhance Heart Health by Improving Blood Pressure, Triglycerides and Cholesterol Levels
Heart disease is considered the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for an estimated 31.5% of deaths globally.
Switching up your diet and lifestyle is one of the most effective ways to reduce your risk of heart disease.
Some research has found that incorporating fasting into your routine may be especially beneficial for heart health.
One study found that eight weeks of alternate-day fasting reduced levels of bad LDL cholesterol and blood triglycerides by 25% and 32%, respectively.
May Boost Brain Function and Prevent Neurodegenerative Disorders
Though research is mainly limited to animal research, several studies have found that fasting could have a powerful effect on brain health.
One study in mice showed that practising intermittent fasting for 11 months improved brain function and structure.
Because fasting may also help relieve inflammation, it could also aid in preventing neurodegenerative disorders.
In particular, animal studies suggest that fasting may protect against and improve outcomes for conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s.
Aids Weight Loss by Limiting Calorie Intake and Boosting Metabolism
Theoretically, abstaining from all or certain foods and beverages should decrease your overall calorie intake, leading to increased weight loss over time.
Some research has also found that short-term fasting may boost metabolism by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which could enhance weight loss.
One review showed that whole-day fasting could reduce body weight by up to 9% and significantly decrease body fat over 12–24 weeks.
Another review found that intermittent fasting over 3–12 weeks was as effective in inducing weight loss as continuous calorie restriction and decreased body weight and fat mass by up to 8% and 16%, respectively.