Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

BY Andrea Donsky TIMEMay 16, 2019 PRINT

Anti-aging is one of the more popular health benefits of intermittent fasting, but beyond these effects on aging and longevity, there are many other health benefits and they can be pretty impressive.

Promotes Weight Loss

Overall, intermittent fasting tends to make people eat fewer meals. Unless you compensate by eating more food during the allotted time frame, you likely will lose weight.

When you stop eating for a half day or longer, your body begins to undergo cell repair that removes waste material from cells. Fasting also can increase the body’s secretion of growth hormones, which boost fat burning and muscle gain. Insulin levels also decline significantly, which enhances fat burning. Meanwhile, norepinephrine (noradrenaline) levels rise, which increases the metabolism of fat that can then be used as energy by the body.

In fact, short-term fasting, also known as intermittent fasting, can accelerate your metabolism by 3.6 to 14 percent. A 2014 scientific review reported that in a period of three to 24 weeks, intermittent fasting can result in 3 to 8 percent reduction in weight and a 4 to 7 percent reduction in waist circumference.

Reduces Diabetes Risk

Insulin resistance is a dangerous consequence of high levels of sugar in the bloodstream, as is the development of Type 2 diabetes. Intermittent fasting has been shown to significantly improve insulin resistance and as a result lower blood sugar levels.

In a study appearing in Translational Research, the authors reported that alternate-day fasting, a form of intermittent fasting, resulted in a 20 to 31 percent reduction in fasting insulin levels and a 3 to 6 percent decline in fasting blood sugar levels. It should be noted, however, that at least one study found that blood sugar control got worse among women who followed a 22-day intermittent fasting program. These preliminary results require further study.

Improves Heart Health

Some of the more significant risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, elevated total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and high levels of triglycerides, blood sugar, and inflammatory markers. Intermittent fasting has been shown to help improve all of these risk factors in animal studies, with a smaller number of human studies showing the same results.

Enhances Brain Function

Countless processes are involved in keeping the brain functioning, and intermittent fasting may help some of them. Animal studies indicate that intermittent fasting may boost the growth of neural cells, which can then go on to become neurons or non-neuronal glia cells. In addition, you may experience a rise in levels of the hormone known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Low levels of BDNF have been associated with depression.

May Help Prevent Cancer 

Although the jury is still out on this benefit because human studies are needed, evidence from animal research indicates that intermittent fasting may enhance the effect of some chemotherapy drugs, as well as help slow or prevent certain types of cancer.

Is intermittent fasting for you? If intermittent fasting sounds like something you want to incorporate into your life, be sure to consult with a knowledgeable health care provider before you embark on this journey, especially if you have a chronic health condition or are taking any medications.

Andrea Donsky is an author, registered holistic nutritionist, editor-in-chief of, and co-founder of The Healthy Shopper Inc. and Naturally Savvy Media. This article was first published on

Andrea Donsky, who holds a bachelor of commerce, is an international TV health expert, best selling author, and founder of—a recipient of Healthline’s Best Healthy Living Blogs for 2019. This article was originally published on
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