Intermittent fasting is a way of consuming food that has gained major popularity in recent years. Unlike traditional diets, which focus primarily on what someone eats, intermittent fasting focuses on when someone eats. One common approach is to restrict all food consumption into an eight-hour window. Some opt for even narrower windows, such as over four hours. Other approaches adopt a weekly schedule, such as to eat normally for five days, then fast for two entire days.
But is intermittent fasting actually a good idea? Is it just a crazy fad? Is it dangerous? Or does it have real benefits?
As it turns out, there is reason to believe that intermittent fasting makes a lot of sense when accounting for humanity’s origins. The human body evolved to be able to go without food for not merely hours and hours, but even multiple days. Before civilization, it was a lot of work to get food. Humans are designed to continue functioning just fine, even while fasting. Going without eating for a long while was a fact of life for the hunter-gatherer ancestors of modern humans.
Now, people have food available to them 24/7. And that’s the problem: for many folks, grazing throughout the day just doesn’t work. Overeating often becomes unavoidable. While calorie restrictions and eating small meals certainly can be effective, intermittent fasting offers a great alternative, particularly for those for whom traditional healthy eating methods have not worked.
By eliminating snacking and all-day grazing, intermittent fasting directly aids weight loss. Sugar can only be stored as fat, utilizing the hormone insulin. Between meals, insulin levels naturally drop, which in turn allows sugar to be released and used as energy, rather than being stored as fat. By extending the periods between meals, intermittent fasting promotes the process of the body burning fat for fuel, helping in weight loss.
Lowering insulin levels through intermittent fasting isn’t just valuable for weight loss itself, but also for combating diabetes. Diabetes develops when there is too much blood sugar present. Over time, cells lose their ability to use sugar for energy. This condition is known as insulin insensitivity, and is a precursor to diabetes. Intermittent fasting can combat these problems by reducing insulin requirements.
Scientific research has shown a range of benefits available from intermittent fasting beyond just the key benefits of weight loss and lower risk for diabetes. Among those include lower inflammation, lower risk for cancer, improved brain health, better heart health, and the triggering of a cellular repair process known as autophagy.
Intermittent fasting isn’t a miracle cure. For some, this approach to eating is too restrictive. In others, intermittent fasting can actually trigger binge-eating or a disordered attitude toward food. However, it is also very clear that intermittent fasting has plenty going for it. The benefits of intermittent fasting are real, and the popularity gained by this method for regulating eating is deserved.