Key in "fad diets" on Google in 2019, and you're bound to come up with some variation of the intermittent-fasting (IF) diet. You can find quite a few variations of IF diets, but most are 16:8 fasting diets in which you try to consume all of your food for the day within an eight-hour window and then fast for the remaining 16 hours of the day. Regardless of the approach, all the talk of intermittent fasting does make you wonder: Are there real health benefits to fasting intermittently? Here are five potential benefits of intermittent fasting on health according to scientific research.
1. Losing Weight
The number one reason most people start an IF diet is to attempt to shed pounds. Scientifically speaking, the claims that an IF diet could help lose weight seem to be true. Researchers examined 13 studies involving intermittent fasting and its relationship to weight loss in a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2015. Those studies revealed that on average, participants lost 1.3 percent of their body weight in a two-week period and 8 percent of their body weight in an eight-week period.
2. Proposed Cancer Protection
A study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that fasting on alternate days could reduce the risks of developing certain types of cancer in animals. Additionally, alternate-day IF could slow the progression of some cancer cells.
3. Lowered Blood Pressure
Those struggling with high blood pressure could see improvement with an IF diet. According to one study published in 2018, 23 individuals following the 16:8 IF diet saw a significant drop in systolic blood pressure readings. These benefits were only apparent while the diet was being followed and not when participants went back to normal eating schedules.
4. Better Brain Function as You Age
Scientific data suggests better brain function and cognition could come along with an IF diet. So far, the studies on the link between how IF affects the brain have only been done in animals. However, early examinations have led to speculations that IF could actually help with age-related memory functions.
5. Potential for Reduced Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance could be reduced in people who follow IF diets. Research on this proposed benefit is in its infantry stages, but scientists do know that after fasting for a period, people grow more sensitive to insulin and natural insulin levels fall. In theory, people who fast intermittently could see less of a risk of type 2 diabetes. People who already have diabetes, however, should take great caution when attempting an IF diet because levels can fall so sharply that it is not healthy.
The bottom line is IF diets could potentially come along with both weight loss and other benefits for your body. Science is proving this statement to be true little by little. As always, before starting an IF diet, it is best to discuss the safety of your plans with your primary care physician.