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Intermittent Fasting: Eating Patterns, Risks & Health Benefits

Intermittent fasting refers to an eating pattern where people limit their food consumption to certain hours of the day.

Aarushi Chadha

While many diets focus on the quality of food we eat and how much we eat, however, intermittent fasting is all about when you eat. Intermittent fasting is an eating plan that switches between fasting and eating on a regular schedule. 

Several studies show that intermittent fasting has several health benefits, including weight management.

Popular approaches to intermittent fasting

  1. Time-restricted eating- In this approach to intermittent fasting, people have set fasting and eating windows. For instance, you fast for 12 hours of the day and are able to eat whatever you want for the remainder of the day. It is the most convenient method of intermittent fasting as most people already fast while they sleep.

  2. Alternative day fasting- Eat a normal diet one day and either completely fast or have one less meal the next day.

  3. The twice-a-week method- This approach to intermittent fasting focuses on eating normal meals five days a week and then either fasting completely or capping your calories at 500 for two days a week. During the five days of the week, try to maintain a healthy and normal diet.

Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

  1. Helps lose weight- Many people intermittent fasting with the aim of losing weight. Many studies show that intermittent fasting does help lose weight, however, only in the short term. During intermittent fasting, you are eating fewer meals, thereby, you end up taking in fewer calories. It also enhances hormone function to facilitate weight loss. While practicing intermittent fasting, there is an increase in the breakdown of body fat because of lower insulin levels, higher HGH levels, and increased noradrenaline. Intermittent fasting boosts our metabolic rate by helping us burn more calories and at the same time reduces the amount of the food we eat. There is a need for further studies to understand the sustainability of this diet.

  1. Reduced blood pressure- A 2018 study published in the journal, Nutrition and Healthy Ageing, found that practicing intermittent fasting resulted in a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure (systolic blood pressure indicates the force of the heart against your artery walls each time it beats). Unhealthily high levels of systolic blood pressure can have a negative impact on our heart, eyes, brain, and kidneys.

  2. Lower LDL cholesterol- LDL cholesterol, also known as bad cholesterol, can increase our risk of heart disease and stroke. Some studies indicate that intermittent fasting helps lower LDL cholesterol, thereby, removing the build up of fats food in the blood and arteries.

4. Beneficial for heart health- Bad eating habits and living a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of heart disease, one of the world’s biggest killers. Intermittent fasting improves blood sugar levels, total and LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, inflammatory markers, and blood triglycerides, all of these factors are beneficial for heart health.

5. Reduces insulin resistance- Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disease that features high blood sugar levels in the context of insulin resistance. Some studies indicate that intermittent fasting can help reduce insulin resistance, thereby, resulting in a reduction in blood sugar levels.

6. Reduced inflammation- Although there is a need for further studies to conclusively prove this, however, general calorie reduction and intermittent fasting can reduce inflammation levels. This type of fasting also reduces oxidative stress.

7. Boosts brain function- Studies show that intermittent fasting and fasting, in general, can enhance memory, protect the brain against the development of neurological disorders, and improve concentration.

In summation, intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It doesn’t dictate the type of food we eat instead it dictates the time of day when we should eat them. Other than spiritual and religious reasons, fasting also has several health benefits, such as improved brain function, better heart health, and reduced insulin resistance.

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