1. Promotes Weight Loss
One of the major intermittent fasting benefits is its ability to rev up fat burning and help the pounds slide off. In fact, many people prefer intermittent fasting to traditional diets because it doesn’t require you to meticulously measure your foods and track the calories and grams consumed.
Intermittent fasting results in increased fat burning and fast weight loss by forcing your body to use up fat stores as fuel. When you eat, your body uses glucose (sugar) as its primary source of energy and stores whatever is left over as glycogen in your muscles and liver.
When you don’t give your body a steady stream of glucose, it begins breaking down the glycogen to use as fuel. After the glycogen has been depleted, your body seeks out alternative sources of energy, such as fat cells, which it then breaks down to help power your body.
This is similar to the ketogenic diet, in which you deprive your body of carbohydrates and force it to use up stored fat for energy.
A 2015 review looked at the effects of alternate-day fasting on body composition and found that, on average, it slashed body weight by up to 7 percent and cut body fat by up to 12 pounds. Whole-day fasting led to similar results, but with up to a 9 percent reduction in body weight. (1) It’s less clear what whole-day fasting does to your valuable muscle stores.
Another study focused on the 16/8 method of intermittent fasting showed that it significantly reduced fat mass while retaining both muscle mass and strength. (2) This fact is why I recommend this style of intermittent fasting the most.
2. Improves Blood Sugar
When you eat, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream. A hormone called insulin is responsible for transporting the glucose out of the bloodstream and into the cells where it can be used up as energy.
Insulin doesn’t always work effectively when you have diabetes, which can result in high blood sugar levels coupled with symptoms like fatigue, thirst and frequent urination.
Some studies have found that intermittent fasting benefits your blood sugar levels by keeping them well-regulated and preventing spikes and crashes.
In one study, participants with diabetes fasted an average of 16 hours daily for two weeks. Not only did intermittent fasting cause weight loss and a decrease in caloric intake, but it also helped significantly reduce blood sugar levels. (3)
Another study showed that fasting decreased blood sugar by 12 percent and also lowered insulin levels by nearly 53 percent. Preventing a build-up of insulin allows it to work more efficiently and keeps your body sensitive to its effects. (4)
3. Keeps Your Heart Healthy
One of the most impressive intermittent fasting benefits is its favorable effect on heart health. Studies show that intermittent fasting can help keep your heart healthy by lowering certain heart disease risk factors.
In one study, fasting was shown to influence several components of heart health. It increased good HDL resources and decreased both bad LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. (5)
One animal study in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry showed that intermittent fasting caused an increase in levels of adiponectin. (6) Adiponectin is a protein involved in the metabolism of fat and sugar that may be protective against heart disease and heart attacks. (7)
In fact, in one study, rats who fasted every other day were nearly 66 percent more likely to survive a heart attack than those on a normal diet. (8)
4. Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation is a normal immune response to injury. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, can lead to chronic disease. Some research has even linked inflammation to conditions like heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer. (9)
A study published in Nutrition Research followed 50 individuals observing Ramadan and showed that they had decreased levels of some inflammatory markers during Ramadan fasting. (10) Another study in 2015 found that a longer duration of nighttime fasting was associated with a decrease in markers of inflammation. (11)
While more research is needed, these studies provide promising evidence showing that intermittent fasting may help reduce inflammation and fight off chronic disease.
5. Protects Your Brain
In addition to keeping your heart healthy and warding off disease, some studies have found that intermittent fasting could also protect the health of your brain.
One animal study showed that intermittent fasting enhanced cognitive function and protected against changes in memory and learning function compared to a control group. (12) Another animal study found that intermittent fasting helped protect the brains of mice by influencing certain proteins involved in brain aging. (13)
Additionally, the anti-inflammatory effects of intermittent fasting may also help slow the progression of disorders like Alzheimers disease. (14)
6. Decreases Hunger
Leptin, also known as the satiety hormone, is a hormone produced by the fat cells that helps signal when it’s time to stop eating. Your leptin levels drop when you’re hungry and increase when you’re feeling full.
Because leptin is produced in the fat cells, those who are overweight or obese tend to have higher amounts of leptin circulating in the body. However, too much leptin floating around can cause leptin resistance, which makes it harder for it to effectively turn off hunger cues.
One study with 80 participants measured leptin levels during intermittent fasting and found that levels were lower at night during the fasting period. (15)
Lower levels of leptin could translate to less leptin resistance, less hunger and potentially even more weight loss.