In recent years, the practice of fasting has been discussed and evaluated by countless health professionals, journalists, even influencers on social media. It might feel like a recent trend, but fasting has been a normal part of human populations for thousands of years. Before the agricultural revolution, fasting was a part of life as a way of managing inconsistent access to food.
It seems clear that our bodies are designed to manage short periods of famine, so how does impact our physical health? Now that fasting is optional for nearly all of us, do the short- and long-term benefits outweigh the discomfort most of us experience when we skip meals?
Keeping That Sugar Steady
One of the benefits of fasting is its ability to promote stable blood sugar levels. Multiple studies have shown that habitual, recurrent fasting may decrease both blood sugar and insulin levels, which has helps prevent spikes and crashes. Fasting seems to decrease insulin resistance and the associated risk of type 2 diabetes and help the body transport glucose from the bloodstream to cells. Maintaining normal blood glucose levels is an important component of healthy cells.
Controlling Chronic Inflammation
Inflammation has become a dirty word in our culture, but short periods of inflammation seem to nudge the immune system to repair tissue and defend against viruses and bacteria by producing white blood cells and chemicals called cytokines. But what happens if the inflammation persists? Longterm, persistent inflammation may be linked to heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and even cancer. Research shows that among healthy adults, intermittent fasting decreased levels of cytokines, which are markers of inflammation. When we avoid chronic inflammation, we are less likely to develop some diseases and feel pain.
Boosting Metabolic Efficiency
We all know our bodies change as we age. Whether you’re wondering what happened to your metabolism or still considering them as some future irritation (we see you, Gen Z), understanding our metabolism helps us stay healthy.
Recent studies give us reasons to feel more optimistic. Apparently intermittent fasting can influence our metabolic efficiency – how quickly our body can convert food into energy. One study concluded that during periods of short-term fasting, the resting metabolic rate with a coincident increase in the hormone norepinephrine, which stimulates fat burning and promulgates an efficient metabolism.
Our Anti-Aging Friend, Autophagy
Fasting seems to impact more than just metabolism. Autophagy is the process by which cells disassemble unnecessary or dysfunctional parts – almost like a cellular recycling program that breaks down and removes accumulations of damaged cells – and recent studies suggest short-term fasting can jump-start the process. As we get older our cells are less able to recycle damage as effectively, and the theory is that autophagy triggered by fasting could effectively slow the aging process at a cellular level.
But Does Fasting Prompt Weight Loss?
It seems like an obvious assumption, but it's nice to have studies confirm the difference between fasting and starving. Especially when connected to a healthy lifestyle, studies suggest that the combination of lowered insulin levels, an increase in the human growth hormone (HGH) level, and a more efficient metabolic rate, prompt weight loss without sacrificing muscle tissue.
If you’ve been interested in trying an intermittent fasting routine, check out our fasting group on Facebook so you can join our next 3-day fasting community challenge!
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