The Researched Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
There's plenty of research on Intermittent Fasting (IF) that explores the associated benefits of this way of eating - and we’re not talking just about weight loss: Academics and researchers have looked into how intermittent fasting could impact overall health and wellbeing through its effect on the body; from potentially helping to improve blood sugar levels, cholesterol and blood pressure to aiding the digestive system, impacting your circadian rhythm and improving energy levels and brain function.
Our Nutrition Team pride themselves at keeping up with latest developments in the field and compiled a summary of some of the reported health benefits on intermittent fasting:
Intermittent Fasting and Gut Health:
Giving your body a break from constant digestion.
Fasting can give an exhausted gut a break from assimilating food and digesting, which are energy intensive tasks. It can also potentially support your friendly gut bacteria. When you overeat, you’re more likely to experience bloating, discomfort, fatigue and potentially higher blood sugar. This can lead to disrupted digestion and weight gain over a longer period of time (1).
Living in sync with your body clock.
Our circadian rhythm is another name for our internal body clock. Our gut microbes actually also have a circadian rhythm. Disruption of the human body clock, such as jet lag, eating late and night, can cause issues with the microbiome and potentially negatively affect our metabolic health.
There has been research that has shown that intermittent fasting may possibly the diversity of microbes in the gut, increase tolerance against ‘bad’ microbes, and restore the integrity of the gut lining (2).
Intermittent Fasting and Energy Levels:
Keeping blood sugar more stable through the day.
Intermittent Fasting is also known to support energy levels. Eating several times a day means our bodies metabolism goes through cycles of breaking down carbohydrates and turning them into blood sugar, which is used for energy or stored in cells for later use. As you can imagine, this constant up and down can stress our metabolism and result in lower energy levels and concentration (3).
With IF, as our bodies are not constantly having to break down food, we have more energy for other processes in the body.
Intermittent Fasting and Brain Function:
It could trigger Autophagy ( the process of the removal of damaged brain cells).
Intermittent Fasting can support various metabolic features which can help brain health; such as reducing inflammation, blood sugar levels, insulin resistance and oxidative damage. Research has shown that IF can increase levels of a hormone called BDNF (brain- derived neurotrophic factor), a deficiency of which has been implicated in depression and various other issues. BNDF potentially makes brain neurons more resistant to stress (4).
Fasting also triggers a process called Autophagy, which is essentially the removal of damaged cells. It can protect brain cells against accumulation of “bad” protein clumps that cause neuro-degeneration. When working properly, this is a process which is positive for brain function and cognition (5).
1. Catterson, J. Khericha, M. Dyson, M. et al. 2018. Short-Term, Intermittent Fasting Induces Long-Lasting Gut Health and TOR-Independent Lifespan Extension. Current Biology, 28(11), pp.1714-1724.e4.
2. Singh, R. Chang, H. Yan, D. et al. 2017. Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health. Journal of Translational Medicine, 15(1).
3. Cho, Y. Hong, N. Kim, K. et al. 2019. The Effectiveness of Intermittent Fasting to Reduce Body Mass Index and Glucose Metabolism: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 8(10), p.1645.
4. Mattson, M. Moehl, K. Ghena, N. et al. 2018. Intermittent metabolic switching, neuroplasticity and brain health. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 19(2), pp.81-94.
5. Li, L. Wang, Z. Zuo, Z. et al. 2013. Chronic Intermittent Fasting Improves Cognitive Functions and Brain Structures in Mice. PLoS ONE, 8(6), p.e66069.