Science of intermittent fasting 2

by - April 24, 2019

After hearing about the benefits of intermittent fasting for weight loss, mental health and all round health in fact, the success stories now beg the question “How does it work?”

To answer this, we need to explore the science of the new trend (don’t roll your eyes yet, science can be fun) and discover what makes it tick. If you’re hearing about intermittent fasting for the first time, you have got some catching up to do.

A lot of the research done as regards to intermittent fasting has been carried out on animals; rodents and the likes, and only a handful have actually been done on human subjects. The results, however, have been promising. So let’s get “sciency” and explore what makes this practice work.

The body uses energy gotten from the food we eat to drive itself. During digestion, the stomach breaks down carbohydrates into sugar that your cells use for energy to run the body, so to speak. If your cells don’t use all the available glucose, it ultimately gets stored as, that’s right, fat.

When you go for a time without food, your cells switch from using glucose as their primary fuel source to using fat. Thus, your fat stores, chiefly triglycerides, get burned up for energy. The more fats get burned equals the amount of fat that leaves the body. This is now directly reflected on the body as weight loss, and there is now improved cardiovascular disease risk profile (because fat is bad for the heart).

The breakdown of proteins for fuel won’t happen until about the third day of fasting. That means that fasting can help you lose weight while maintaining muscle mass (because before the breaking down of the proteins begins, the body has refueled itself again).

When your body uses stored up fat for energy, it releases fatty acids called ketones into the bloodstream. Ketones play a role in weight loss, but they have also been shown to preserve brain function, even offering some security against epileptic seizures, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurodegenerative disorders.

We get a flood of insulin when we eat, while levels decrease when we fast. Insulin regulates whether extra glucose from digestion gets stored in the body as fat. Research shows that intermittent fasting decreases insulin dramatically and can reduce hyperinsulinemia, as well as improve insulin sensitivity (so extra glucose doesn’t get stored as fat, and weight loss is activated).

During intermittent fasting, your cells get a little stressed out (in a good way), making you more resilient. The cells respond to the stress adaptively by enhancing their ability to cope with stress and, maybe, to resist disease.

Fasting also seems to cause cells to initiate a waste-removal process called autophagy. During autophagy, the body cleans house and starts regenerating itself by eliminating dysfunctional, damaged cells to make room for new, healthy ones. Autophagy may offer protection against diseases like cancer or dementia.

Fasting has been shown to improve biomarkers of disease, reduce oxidative stress and preserve learning and memory functioning, according to Mark Mattson, senior investigator for the National Institute on Aging, part of the US National Institutes of Health.

Oxidative stress is one of the steps towards aging and many chronic diseases. It involves unstable molecules called free radicals, which react with other important molecules (like protein and DNA) and damage them.

Several studies show that intermittent fasting may enhance the body's resistance to oxidative stress. Additionally, studies show that intermittent fasting can help fight inflammation, another key driver of all sorts of common diseases.

Does your head hurt yet? All those words, right? (lol).

It is important to know, in detail, how our bodies work based on our lifestyle and practices. With more research, more benefits of the intermittent fasting practice and how it works with the body to achieve them will spring up. You will do well to do more research and keep informed.

Stay healthy, stay safe!

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