Health benefits of intermittent fasting

It can be difficult to know what diet is right for your body. Intermittent fasting is an eating plan that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. Many people use intermittent fasting to lose weight and improve their health. Stephen Riggs, MD, a family medicine provider at MercyOne Kimball Family Medicine and Pediatric Care and certified ketogenic expert, discusses seven benefits of intermittent fasting.

1. Weight loss

Intermittent fasting is a great tool for weight loss because it targets the body’s fat while maintaining lean muscle. When done appropriately and under medical supervision, fasting has some health benefits that are better than a traditional caloric restriction diet. A study found that people on the intermittent fasting diet did not experience a significant loss of lean muscle.

2. Longevity

Studies have long shown that people who live the longest often have periods of fasting as part of their lifestyle. Experimental studies in animals all show that fasting prolongs life expectancy.

3. Fasting and the brain

Ketones are an alternate energy source to glucose your liver makes. While fasting for long periods of time, ketones can make up to 70% of the brain’s fuel supply. Ketones have many beneficial impacts on the brain like reduced inflammation and improved tissue regeneration.

Dr. Riggs said, “There are exciting clinical trials underway on the use of fasting to treat a variety of neurologic disorders including dementia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, ALS, as well as a host of behavioral and psychiatric disorders ranging from ADHD to anxiety to bipolar disorder .”

4. Inflammation

When you fast, your body converts its released fat into ketones. The ketones are sent around your body to be used as fuel. It is common for everyday aches and pains to be relieved when you are fasting thanks to an increase in anti-inflammatory ketones. The decrease in inflammation while intermittent fasting is known to positively affect the treatment of inflammatory conditions like asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

“One of the best demonstrations of the beneficial effects of fasting is in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis,” Dr. Riggs said. “I have had several patients with various forms of arthritis who were even able to stop their very expensive IV infusion therapy and are now pain free.”

5. Cancer prevention and treatment

Fasting causes stress on the cells. Normal cells go into a “protected state” while cancer cells cannot. This can be used to your advantage in cancer treatment with chemotherapy as fasting 2-3 days prior to chemo in animal models has been shown to reduce side effects and enhance tumor killing. Several trials in humans are underway to determine the efficacy of fasting in enhancing cancer treatment.

You can check out Cancer prevention and nutrition for more cancer prevention diet planning.

6. Reversal of metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a group of five medical conditions that increase a person’s risk of heart disease and diabetes. This group includes high glucose levels and high blood pressure. The root cause of metabolic syndrome is hyperinsulinemia. Hyperinsulinemia is a diagnosis for when a person has an abnormally high amount of insulin in their body. Fasting reduces the risk of hyperinsulinemia and can potentially reverse the conditions it causes. Dr. Riggs said, “After years of using drugs to treat these conditions, I now find diet and fasting to be the most powerful tools in my toolbox.”

Take the first step to reduce your risk by learning what key factors can prevent heart disease.

7. Hypertension

Blood pressure drops significantly with fasting. For example, an average of 10-11 days of water only fasting resulted in a systolic blood pressure below 120 in 82% of subjects with borderline hypertension. Blood pressure remained significantly lower compared to baseline even after subjects resumed the normal diet for an average of 6 days.

Fasting can also drop your insulin levels. Insulin causes your kidneys to retain sodium and water. With a drop in insulin, blood pressure frequently drops.

Intermittent fasting provides your body with a wide array of health benefits. If you are interested in an intermittent fasting plan, talk to your doctor to set up a plan that is right for you.

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