Comprehensive Post-COVID Care Now Available! Click here to learn more.
Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting Can Improve Your Health: Fact or Fiction

Intermittent Fasting is another form of weight-loss strategy which is extremely prevalent these days. The simplified definition of the term is to plan your eating pattern in a way that revolves around fasting for a specific period of time and eating for the rest of it. Just like the other rampant dietary trends like keto, vegan, weight watcher, and Mediterranean diet, people have mixed views about intermittent fasting. 

Some research has shown that it helps in weight-loss significantly, some claim that it has health benefits attached to it and some say that it works as any other diet plan would. So the main question here is that, is intermittent fasting healthy? Or just like the previous trendy diet-restriction strategies, it promises more than it can actually deliver.

How Does Intermittent Fasting Work? 

To find out if intermittent fasting is healthy or not, we first need to grasp an understanding of how exactly it works.

Whenever we eat, a partial amount of food is ingested, which is used immediately. The rest of it is stored using a hormone called insulin in our body. The carbohydrates from the food are broken into separate units of glucose, which are stored in the muscles and liver. Once the capacity of storage reaches as there is very limited storage space for carbohydrates, the liver turns the surplus of glucose into fat, which is deposited into different parts of a person’s body. 

This entire process is reversed when we fast, the level of insulin hormones in our body drop significantly which leads to the body using up the stored glucose in the liver and muscle and once that is used up (which takes up to 24 to 36 hours) are body starts breaking down fat to use as energy.

How To Do Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent is an umbrella term that covers many ways and approaches to fast – However, there are certain popular approaches that can amplify your fasting benefits.

Here are the best ways to do intermittent fasting:

  • Daily time-restricted eating in which a person is supposed to eat within a specific period of time like 8 hours and fast for the rest of it. You can either skip breakfast or dinner to eat within the timeframe.
  • The 5:2 diet or the Fast diet means a person can eat normally for days and then have a 2 day fast, which means fasting or having a restricted calorie intake for two days.
  • Alternate day fasting means to eat regularly one day and fast or have one small meal the next day. Alternate day fasting has proven to be one of the best ways to do intermittent fasting.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat which means a person fast for 24 hours, once or twice a week.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

While intermittent fasting results may vary for all individuals,  there are various potential intermittent fasting benefits.

Here is a list of some reported benefits of intermittent fasting:

  • Weight Loss: It helps create a calorie deficit, which means it is an effective way to do intermittent fasting to lose weight.
  • Improved Metabolism: May enhance metabolic health and increase fat oxidation.
  • Insulin Sensitivity: Can improve insulin sensitivity, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Heart Health: May contribute to improved heart health by reducing risk factors like blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Cellular Repair: Supports autophagy, a process that removes damaged cells and regenerates new, healthy ones.
  • Brain Health: Potential cognitive benefits, including increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels, which support brain function.
  • Inflammation Reduction: May help reduce inflammation, lowering the risk of chronic diseases.
  • Longevity: Some studies suggest that intermittent fasting may promote longevity by influencing cellular processes.
  • Cancer Prevention: Limited evidence suggests a potential role in reducing the risk of certain cancers.
  • Improved Blood Sugar Levels: Can help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of insulin resistance.
  • Hormone Regulation: Influences hormones like ghrelin and leptin, helping control appetite.
  • Increased Energy Levels: Some individuals report increased energy and alertness during fasting periods.
  • Simplicity and Convenience: Simplifies meal planning and may be convenient for those with busy schedules.
  • Gut Health: Supports a healthy gut microbiome, positively impacting digestive health.
  • Psychological Benefits: May lead to a more mindful approach to eating and promote a healthier relationship with food.

What Does The Research Tell Us?

There is a significant amount of research that supports intermittent fasting having health benefits. According to Mark Mattson, a senior investigator in (NIH) National Institute of Health, it is said to help in stress management and preserve learning and memory functioning. 

A study from the University of Alabama in which two small groups of obese men with prediabetes followed two types of time-restricted eating plans: one for 8 hours and the other for 12 hours and after 5 weeks the eight hours group had significantly improved insulin sensitivity and insulin levels in the body, along with lower blood pressure. 

Another study concluded that the impact of intermittent fasting on various biomarkers can eventually prevent severe conditions like cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes but it is important to know that this study was conducted on animals. 

A study from 2015 also showed enhanced parasympathetic activity mediated acetylcholine which leads to an increase in gut motility, which decreased heart rate and blood pressure.

The research and findings on intermittent fasting and its health benefits, although significant, are mostly in their early stages. Some of them are done on animals like rodents, rats, and monkeys. Researchers are leaning towards more human trials now.  Like any other diet-oriented strategies there are some restrictions attached to it like people aged less than 18 years, people who have or are prone to eating disorders, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers are advised not to go for this form of eating habit.

Final Verdict

It’s also important to note that even on the days you are supposed to eat, the quality of food you eat matters a lot. If you end up eating junk food or adhere to unhealthy eating practices, you can’t expect a healthy outcome.

Intermittent fasting, as evidence shows, impacts the cardiovascular system, the neurological system, and also the different health concerns that you might be facing like hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and even sleeping issues like insomnia. If you have the said health concern or any other health concern that you need immediate attendance to visit Manhattan Medical Arts. Our experienced team of doctors will ensure all your problems are catered without any compromises.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the basic rules of intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting.
Common methods include 16/8 (16 hours of fasting, 8 hours of eating) and 5:2 (five days of regular eating, two days of restricted calories).

What are the best hours for intermittent fasting?

The best hours depend on individual preferences and lifestyle.
Many find success with a 16/8 window, such as fasting from 8 p.m. to 12 p.m. the next day.

What is the best intermittent fasting window to lose belly fat?

No specific window targets belly fat; overall calorie deficit matters most.
Consistent 16/8 fasting coupled with a balanced diet aids fat loss, including belly fat.

How long does it take for 16/8 intermittent fasting to work?

Results vary; some may notice changes in a few weeks.
Consistency with fasting, coupled with a healthy diet, is key for effective outcomes.

How many calories to eat during intermittent fasting 16/8?

Caloric needs vary; focus on quality over quantity.
Consult with a nutritionist to determine the right calorie intake for individual goals.

What can you drink during intermittent fasting?

Water, black coffee, and herbal teas are generally allowed.
Avoid beverages with calories to maintain the fasting state.

How long does it take for 16/8 intermittent fasting to work?

Noticeable effects may take a few weeks.
Individual factors, such as metabolism and activity level, influence the timeline.

– Disclaimer –

This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by Dr. Syra Hanif, M.D. on 02/22/2021

Learn more about our editorial process.

  • About The Author

    Dr. Syra Hanif M.D.

    Board Certified Primary Care Physician

Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.

Read More