While the results of intermittent fasting on fat loss and health are well known, restricting your meals to a set period can do a lot more than lower your waistline.
Intermittent fasting might also lead to many more benefits, including increasing your stress resistance, extending your lifespan, and lowering your risk of cancer, according to new research from researchers at Johns Hopkins.
“We are at a point to almost adding information about intermittent fasting to our school curriculum next to standard recommendations about healthy exercise and diets,” neuroscientist Mark Mattson said in the press release.
By looking at several past studies of time-limited diets, the scientists found increasing evidence that intermittent fasting has a powerful effect on health. While fasting regimens are different, the meal plans the scientists looked at were two types: eating for just a six to eight hour time frame, and eating just one meal on two days with the other days being a normal eating schedule. They found good health effects with both fasting methods.
First, they found that fasting might improve heart health. Mattson said that past studies have already shown fasting can lower stress, help blood sugar, and lower inflammation. Also, in four separate studies, it was discovered that intermittent fasting aided in lowering blood lipid levels, and resting heart rates—both important metrics for cardiac health.
Fasting might also help work against diabetes and obesity. Two more studies watched 100 overweight people and compared traditional calorie counting with fasting. Women who fasted lost the same amount of weight as the calorie counter, but had lower belly fat and better insulin sensitivity.
There’s also evidence coming out that fasting helps our brains, too. A trial in Canada studied 220 healthy people on a calorie-restricted diet for 24 months. At the end, their cognitive tests showed their memory had improved.
Want these benefits for yourself? Start off slow, Mattson says. And give yourself time to adjust.
“Feeling irritable and hungry is normal initially,” he said, “and usually goes away after two weeks as your body becomes accustomed to the new fasting habit.”