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Intermittent Fasting Health Benefits You Need To Know About

Intermittent fasting has a number of health benefits. In this article we talk about those, which lead to increased lifespan.
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Intermittent fasting is gaining popularity rapidly. More and more people apply intermittent fasting for improving their health, losing weight or for spiritual purposes. A lot is said about its positive effects, but there are several specific health benefits which you will be curious to know about.

Written by
Vera Bokor
Health and Wellbeing Coach

Intermittent fasting is not a new concept. It has been in practice for thousands of years, and it is being done all around the world in different cultures. The practice has been well-tested and proven to have some benefits that include weight loss, improved insulin sensitivity, less inflammation, reduced blood pressure and much more.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a dietary pattern in which you have a specific time frame of eating, and you fast for the rest of the time. 

There are many methods of intermittent fasting. For example, you can have three meals which you fit in six or eight hours eating window or you can eat once a day. Someone prefers to have prolonged fasting once in a few months and eat regularly the rest of the time. You just need to find a method with which you feel comfortable.

It doesn’t matter what method you stick to, but for sure it gives you many advantages.

1. It promotes brain health

Colorful modeling of a brain.

For decades the medical society was sure that brain cells cannot recover if they’ve been damaged. 

Today's science tells us the opposite: Our brain has an amazing ability to form new neural connections and reorganise itself through life to adapt to changing environments and circumstances. This process is called neuroplasticity (1). 

We want our brain to make new cells and connections in order to keep healthy and function properly. We want to know and learn new skills and abilities. We want to have a clear mind when we are old. 

Specific neurotrophic factors need to be present for these processes to accrue. Neurotrophic factors are proteins that function to promote neuron survival and development (2). 

One of such crucial proteins is the brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF for short. This special neurotrophic factor activates brain stem cells for increasing the production of new cells. But it needs a specific activity to produce BDNF and this activity is intermittent fasting (3, 4).

Intermittent fasting has been shown to increase BDNF significantly depending on a region of the brain. This is especially important for those who had a stroke or any other brain damage (5).

Practising intermittent fasting for activating brain cell development is a great way to prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (6, 7).

Summary: Intermittent fasting has shown a great influence on brain health. Keep doing intermittent fasting to prevent memory loss and other complications while ageing.

2. It benefits muscle growth

The fitness industry tells us about the importance of having multiple meals a day for muscle growth. Some fitness influencers even advise you to wake up in the night to eat for supplying your body with building material for your muscles. Let’s see what works better.

Yes, we need food as a building material, but there is something else we require, to succeed in our fitness goals.

For the muscle to grow, we need human growth hormone or HGH for short, which is also called fitness hormone. These hormone levels rise only under specific circumstances. These circumstances are exercise, trauma, and sleep (8). 

Every time, when we do weight training, we activate HGH production, but there is one concern. HGH has an indirect relationship with insulin. Insulin inhibits the production of HGH. This means that if you had a meal before your workout, it leads to high levels of insulin which will stop HGH secretion as a response to an exercise (9, 10).

You need to know one more interesting fact- the more sensitive you are to insulin, the more HGH your body will secrete. And there is no better way to achieve insulin sensitivity than doing intermittent fasting. Fasting triggers a 1,300% increase in human growth hormone secretion in women, and an astounding 2,000% increase in men (11).

The old statement about multiple meals a day loses its popularity and more people prefer to workout in a fasted state to get the advantage of naturally high HGH levels for muscle growth. 

Summary: We need to take care of our muscles not only for looking great, but we also need to keep our muscles in a good condition for proper functioning. 

Unfortunately, we lose muscle tissue with ageing, this process is called sarcopenia. Intermittent fasting and exercising can help you avoid this condition if you start doing them now, so you will be fit and healthy, not matter what age you are.

3. Prevents decrease of bone density with age 

As we age, the density of our bones decreases. This occurs for two reasons. First, our bones are constantly being broken down and replaced by bone tissue. Second, the process of laying down new bone tissue slows down year by year.

Many people, getting older, develop a condition called osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a chronic bone disease that produces brittle, fragile bones. The main factors to prevent this condition are a proper diet, containing enough calcium and regular exercise. But there is one more factor (12).

Bone and mineral metabolism is regulated by HGH, which activates bone turnover as it increases osteoblast number. Osteoblasts are the bone cells that control bone formation and mineralization throughout life (13).

As we discussed in the previous section, HGH is at high levels after a workout and in a fasted state. By exercising on an empty stomach you significantly lower the risk of bone mass loss and actively increase its density (14, 15).

Summary: Adding intermittent fasting into your lifestyle improves your overall health. One lesser-known benefit of intermittent fasting is the positive effect it has on bone density and risk of fracture as long as you have a nutritious and nourishing diet to supply your body with essential minerals and nutrients.

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4. It supports appropriate gut functioning

We need to have a good diet that will supply us with essential vitamins and nutrients for being healthy, but that is not it. The absorption of the nutrients happens in the gut and if you have some issues with this important organ, you can develop different complications from vitamin deficiency to body intoxication.

The most common problem with the gut is usually “leakage”. The leaky gut syndrome is a result of increased intestinal permeability, it is characterized by an inflammatory response and can lead to chronic illness. This causes even more inflammation, allergies, and intoxication because metabolites of bacteria or undigested proteins go to your bloodstream and travel all over your body. It also affects the ability of your gut to absorb essential nutrients (16).

First of all, intermittent fasting can help to prevent leaky gut syndrome because it helps to regulate the immune system, reduces inflammation in the body, and ensures healthy epithelial cells in the intestine (17).

Secondly, when you don’t consume food, you don’t have incoming allergens that affect the gut lining and you give your body time to regenerate damaged cells. And simply, by fasting, you prevent an overloading of your digestive tract, and you give your body an opportunity to clean itself.

Summary: Many benefits have been widely documented to come from intermittent fasting, but recently, intermittent fasting has been shown to have a significant impact on gut health.

5. It may extend lifespan

Scientists call ageing a disease. In general, ageing is a disability of the body to regenerate, rejuvenate and recover. Let’s see how we can trick out this process. 

One more protein plays a big role in our body functioning, to be more specific, in longevity. The mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) is in charge of cellular metabolism and energy balance and holds the key to muscle building and rejuvenation. Dysregulation in the mTOR pathway accelerates ageing, muscle wasting, and early mortality (18, 19).

And again we have to mention insulin. Insulin interacts with the mTOR pathway. When insulin is released, it up-regulates our mTOR pathway. Excessive insulin from poor diets, a lack of exercise, and chronic stress, on the other hand, harm mTOR pathways, and thereby our health and lifespan (20).

Fasting, diet, and exercise can significantly enhance our mTOR pathways, which will lead to a good quality of life.

Summary: To control insulin levels, which affect many processes in our body, it’s a good idea to apply intermittent fasting. This will also help with proper mTOR activation which slows down the ageing process.

The bottom line

There is a lot of information about general intermittent fasting benefits such as weight loss, autophagy and others. In this article, we talk about some long-term benefits. Longevity and human performance are two very important questions when talking about the quality of life with ageing. 

Adding intermittent fasting into your lifestyle dramatically increases your chances of having a fulfilled, long, healthy and active life. In order to achieve long-term quality changes, it is better to start now. In our blog you can find out about other intermittent fasting benefits, different methods of fasting and scientific-based facts about this pattern of eating.


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