8 amazing benefits of prolonged fasting for health and longevity

Mindful eating is the goal of fasting. As you follow the concept of prolonged fasting, you will learn how to allot specific time periods for eating and some for fasting to allow your body to gain nutrients and burn calories simultaneously. Fasting for weight loss is quite popular, but fasting can be good for several other reasons too.

Before we cover the benefits of fasting, it is important to note that just because prolonged fasting means skipping meals for a fixed period, doesn’t necessarily mean neglecting food or liquids entirely which may be harmful to your health.

Intermittent fasting benefits you the most when you select eating schedules that work for your body clock and consistently stick to them for five days, a month, or whatever timeframe suits you best. Surprisingly, prolonged fasting brings more good than hurt with its eight amazing benefits. 

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1. Aids in weight loss

Many people who do fasting aim primarily to lose weight because of its effective eating pattern. Fasting can increase your metabolic rate by 3.6 to 14 percent, which is around 100 to 275 calories burned daily [1]. Of course, you can only reap fasting’s weight loss benefits if you follow it properly. 

Intermittent fasting, a popular type of fasting, is an effective method of losing weight, giving you similar effects as normal caloric restriction. It can help you lose weight by about seven to eleven pounds over ten weeks [2].

Furthermore, around 27 studies backed up the claim that this fasting type is helpful for obese individuals in managing their weight. After careful and intensive research, intermittent fasting can help people lose weight by 13 percent [3]. 

aids in weight loss

2. Lowers your blood pressure

Having unhealthy levels of blood pressure can further lead to health problems with the heart, brain, kidneys and eyes. So, if you consistently have problems stabilizing your blood pressure, you may want to consider fasting, as it can lower high blood pressure in the short term. 

One study conducted in 2018 found that 16:8 – a type of fasting that suggests fasting for 16 hours and eating within an eight-hour window – can significantly lower systolic blood pressure within its 23 study participants [4]. 

Moreover, both animal studies and clinical trials showed a positive relationship between decreased systolic blood pressure and intermittent fasting [5]. Intermittent fasting can further result in greater reductions in systolic blood pressure than any type of diet that does not involve definitive eating times. 

3. Reduces insulin resistance in diabetes

As mentioned earlier, prolonged fasting can help stabilize blood sugar levels, and because of this, it can also be beneficial for people with diabetes. Though this claim needs more research, health experts are looking at the ability of fasting to reset insulin in the body. 

As an eating pattern, fasting suggests restricting calories on a daily basis which can improve insulin resistance – a marker of type 2 diabetes [6]. Basically, insulin serves as the storage hormone for carbs, protein and fats in the body. When you fast for 24 hours or more, your glycogen, a storage form of carbs, can be depleted which results in reduced insulin levels. Fasting allows you to burn fat to use as your source of energy. 

Many studies in the medical field note the wonderful effects of fasting for people with diabetes. One of them is a study in 2017 that involved ten people who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that fasting for 12 to 72 hours can lower blood sugar by up to 20 percent after only fasting once [7]. The findings are important for people suffering from diabetes. 

4. Reduces body inflammation

From time to time, our bodies can acquire temporary inflammation, and during this time, our immune response can rescue us in order to be healthy again – there’s nothing much to be concerned about. However, when body inflammation becomes chronic, or reoccurring, it can cause serious health consequences, including cancer, heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis [8]. 

One way to help you prevent body inflammation is through fasting. Health experts found that fasting for more than 24 hours can reduce inflammation by lowering oxidative stress in the body cells [9]. In animal studies, intermittent fasting and calorie restriction can reduce body inflammation levels, but more clinical trials are needed.

For example, when the researchers analyzed a group of people with over 50 participants who were fasting for Ramadan. They discovered that during Muslims’ fasting period, their proinflammatory markers were lower than usual, including blood pressure, body weight and body fat [10]. 

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5. Lowers cholesterol levels

Your body’s level of cholesterol depends on your diet. With fasting, you are allowing your body to use stored fat which can result in lowered cholesterol. A review paper published in 2021 reveals that the different types of fasting, such as alternate-day fasting and 5:2 fasting, can help reduce bad cholesterol [11]. Intermittent fasting is known to lower the presence of triglycerides as well, which refer to fats existing in the blood that contribute to stroke, heart attack and any other heart disease. 

6. Lowers risk of cancer

Cancer is one of the most silent-killer diseases you should ultimately prevent yourself from having. In fact, there are around ten million people who die every year because of cancer [12]. 

One of the preventable ways of developing cancer is through fasting. Research suggests that fasting can lower the risk of cancer as it can slow down the cancer cell’s ability to adapt and spread. Cancer cells feed on glucose which they consume more than normal cells. This is where fasting steps in; it helps with reducing the glucose levels in the blood, resulting in the inability of cancer cells to grow. Not to mention fasting can also help with the effects of cancer treatments [13]. 

7. Lowers risk of cardiovascular issues

When you improve your blood pressure and insulin levels, you are also improving your risk of developing cardiovascular issues like stroke, aortic disease and congestive heart failure. In fact, lowering the risk of cardiovascular problems is also great for people with type 2 diabetes as most of them die from heart disease, most especially in adults, according to the reports from the American Heart Association [14]. 

Fasting is linked to lower rates of heart failure, longer life span and metabolic syndrome. It helps in easing and improving the common symptoms of heart diseases, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • high blood sugar
  • Excess abdominal fat
  • Abnormal blood fat levels

    All of these contribute to worsening heart health and diabetes. 
Lowers risk of cardiovascular issues
Photograph: Drazen Zigic/freepik

Although there are not many studies involving humans in identifying the effects of fasting, health experts are positive about the beneficial effects of fasting in improving cardiovascular risk and metabolism, as per the findings in observational studies, specifically in intermittent fasting. Fasting can help change the metabolic parameters of the body, resulting in lower levels of triglycerides and a decrease in blood sugar levels. By consistently fasting, you may actually lose weight. 

8. Slows cell aging and longevity

Initially, the primary intention to do fasting is to lose weight, and yet when you do this, you are also helping your body live more years on Earth, isn’t it fascinating? Prolonged fasting is scientifically linked to slowing down aging and extending longevity. 

One 2019 research discovered that time-restricted feeding with an eating window from 8 AM to 2 PM could potentially increase the autophagy and protein mTOR expression in the body. Autophagy refers to the process by which unnecessary damaged components within a cell are reused to repair or form new cells, which is basically good for your body as damaged cells can cause aging [15]. 

Among the types of time-restricted feeding is ‘48-hours fasting’, which is found to be effective in improving the body’s cellular repair. When your body replenishes cells, it goes through cellular repair, which helps prevent diseases and delay tissue aging [16]. Prolonged fasting is then associated with longevity because of its cellular function. 

In another type of fasting which is intermittent, there are also studies linking it to prolonging the life span simply because it helps build resistance to age-related diseases – well, at least in animal studies. In 2021 research, it was found that intermittent fasting can slow down the aging process within the cells of fruit flies, making them live longer than their life expectancy [17]. 

Though the findings gathered from animal studies are promising, they don’t directly apply to humans. Hence, more clinical trials are still needed to prove the longevity claim fully. 

The bottom line: 

Although the general concept of fasting is restricting yourself with food, in a sense, overdoing it won’t do you any good. Instead of improving your health, you may find yourself with additional diseases when you fast more than the recommended time. Keep in mind that fasting is all about food intake regulation; your health still depends on your lifestyle choices and habits. 

Also, the fasting method may work for some people and may not work for you. It is better to start with small steps before doing extreme fasting variations. Consulting your doctor is also important before following the fasting method, especially if you have certain medications. 

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[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2405717/ 
[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0303720715300800 
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7021351/ 
[4] https://content.iospress.com/articles/nutrition-and-healthy-aging/nha170036 
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6471315/ 
[6]  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6521152/ 
[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5394735/ 
[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492709/ 
[9] https://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/fulltext/S1550-4131(13)00454-3 
[10] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23244540/ 
[11] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34633860/ 
[12] https://ourworldindata.org/cancer
[13] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30327499/ 
[14] https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/diabetes/diabetes-complications-and-risks/cardiovascular-disease–diabetes 
[15] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31151228 
[16] https://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/fulltext/S1550-4131%2817%2930612-5 
[17] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03934-0 

Photograph: pvproductions/Freepik
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