Why should you do an intermittent diet? Does it really work?

Perhaps you have heard about intermittent diet from someone and wondered why not you also start doing it. With all the good reviews and feedback you have heard about intermittent diet, will it work for you too? 

Well, the truth is that a diet’s effectiveness generally depends on one’s body and willingness to follow; hence, finding the correct type of diet is important based on your lifestyle and capabilities. And maybe the intermittent diet can work wonders for you. 

How does intermittent fasting work?

Before we understand why you should do an intermittent diet, let’s determine how it works. An intermittent diet is basically selecting a time when you will eat and fast. You may choose to eat only within an eight-hour period daily, and the rest of the time is for fasting. Or, you can also try eating one meal a day for two days a week. Alternate eating and fasting can help you boost your metabolism. The hours when you do fasting exhaust your sugar stores and burn your fat. The intermittent diet works by lengthening the time when your body is burning the calories and fats you consumed from your meals [1]. 

8 reasons why you should do an intermittent diet 

The intermittent diet has numerous health benefits aside from its obvious result – weight loss. It goes beyond weight management as based on various studies, an intermittent diet can improve brain health, heart health and overall body wellness. Here are eight reasons why you should start adopting this diet:

1.  Lose weight

The majority of people following an intermittent diet aim to lose weight, and this type of diet can be really helpful. When you are on this diet, fasting can produce ketosis, referring to a process of breaking down fats instead of glucose, as your body lacks glucose for energy. With ketosis and fewer calories consumed, you will certainly lose weight. In fact, fasting provides the same results as when you do a typical low-calorie diet as a weight loss method.

Intermittent fasting for weight loss is actually backed up by research. It contributes to the weight loss of overweight or obese individuals [2]. When the diet is properly followed and executed, intermittent fasting can give you good results. This is perfect for people who are naturally busy because they don’t have time to do meal planning every week, which is the thing with the keto diet and the paleo diet. 

Weight loss isn't the cure-all to every health problem, but there are ways to lose weight safely if your doctor recommends it.

2. Boosts brain function

Also, doing an intermittent diet surprisingly helps with your brain health, specifically in boosting brain function. It shows promising results on neurobiological health when studied in animals who went under a strong limitation of calories for 12 to 48 hours and consistent alternate between eating and fasting. 

You can acquire support for a healthy brain function when you do intermittent fasting through metabolic, cellular and circadian mechanisms that lead to anatomical and functional changes in your brain. Research has shown that this diet can also be beneficial for epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis on disease symptoms and progress. Moreover, further studies added that intermittent fasting also helps with Parkinson’s disease, ischemic stroke, autism spectrum disorder and mood and anxiety disorders. It can generally boost working memory and verbal memory [3]. 

3.  Reduces blood pressure

An intermittent diet can also benefit you by reducing your blood pressure. In a study, this diet can significantly lower high blood pressure on a short-term basis. It can reduce systolic blood pressure, which refers to the top number in your blood pressure reading and states the force of the heart against artery walls every time it beats. The relationship between lowered systolic blood pressure and intermittent fasting is seen in clinical trials made in animals and humans [4]. 

4. Lowers cholesterol

Here’s another reason for you to start doing an intermittent diet. It can actually lower your cholesterol. When you have a high level of cholesterol, you are at risk of developing multiple fatal diseases, such as heart disease and stroke. Different intermittent fasting is said to be effective in lowering LDL, among its other benefits in cardiometabolic health. Aside from that, an intermittent diet can generally enhance appetite regulation and provide favourable changes in the diversity of your gut microbiome [5]. 

5. Helps with diabetes 

Being overweight and obese can lead to Type 2 diabetes which you genuinely don’t wish to have because it can be a lifelong disease. As we have established well that an intermittent diet can help you lose weight, it also shows promising findings in preventing you from having diabetes. 

An intermittent diet can help in lowering your levels of fasting glucose, fasting insulin and leptin and at the same time, it reduces your insulin resistance, decreases levels of leptin and increases levels of adiponectin. Furthermore, intermittent fasting can also stabilise your blood sugar levels, most especially for people suffering from diabetes, through resetting insulin [6]. 

6. Lowers risk of cardiovascular issues

The heart is an essential part of your body that can also benefit when you do an intermittent diet. In relation to the above mentioned, when your body’s insulin levels decrease and so a risk of harmful cardiovascular diseases. This health benefit can positively affect people with Type 2 diabetes. In an observational study, an intermittent diet can deliver both cardiovascular and metabolic benefits. It decreases the levels of triglycerides and blood sugar levels. 

7. Cancer protection

Another reason why you should do an intermittent diet is its ability to help protect you from cancer. Experts suggest that it can reduce the risk of cancer by slowing down the cancer cells from adapting and spreading in your body. Plus, it also helps improve the effects of cancer treatment. Moreover, fasting for two days can protect your healthy cells against any toxicity from chemotherapy, leaving the cancer cells to stay sensitive. This actually opens the discussion about shielding healthy cells and allowing powerful assault on cancerous ones [7].

Additionally, one study concluded that fasting combined with chemotherapy could slow the progression of breast cancer and skin cancer. These two methods can allow your body to produce higher levels of common lymphoid progenitor cells (CLPs) and tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes, protecting you from developing tumours. 

8. Increases longevity

Overall, an intermittent diet can increase your longevity by reducing your likelihood of getting fatal diseases. With its healthy calorie restriction and strict eating-fasting schedule, it allows your body to function at its optimal level. In fact, animal studies have shown that intermittent fasting can also slow down the aging process within the cells of fruit flies, extending their lives. Although this is not yet conducted in humans, this is promising research to look out to [8].

Methods of intermittent diet 

Normally, an intermittent diet has different methods based on the frequency and time of alternating eating and fasting in a day or week. 

  • The popular one is the 16/8 method, where you just skip breakfast every day and have an 8-hour eating period and 16 hours of fasting. 
  • Next is the eat-stop-eat method in which you should do fasting for 24 hours once or twice a week but don’t do it consecutively.
  • There is also the so-called 5:2 intermittent diet in which you have a calorie restriction of 500 to 600 calories for two non-consecutive days and no calorie restrictions for the remaining five days in a week. 
  • Meanwhile, the Warrior Diet is also an intermittent diet that suggests eating one huge meal at night and only small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables during the day.

Is intermittent fasting safe?

Intermittent fasting is simply not for everyone. The majority of people adopting this diet to their lifestyle are aiming for weight loss or have chronic conditions to regulate, such as irritable bowel syndrome, high cholesterol or arthritis. It is better to consult with your physician before embarking on this type of diet, most especially for the following:

  • Children and teens who age younger than 18
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women
  • People with a history of eating disorders
  • Type 1 diabetic patients who take insulin – Although there are an increasing number of research showing that intermittent fasting is safe in Type 2 diabetics, there are still no studies on people with Type I diabetes.

In addition, people who don’t fall under the categories above and have no chronic diseases can start or continue doing intermittent fasting or dieting. It can be an ultimate lifestyle change with amazing health benefits. However, if you have not tried it before, you must keep in mind that people may acquire varying effects. 

[1] https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/intermittent-fasting-what-is-it-and-how-does-it-work
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7021351/ 
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8470960/ 
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6471315/ 
[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6521152/ 
[7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30327499/
[8] https://gero.usc.edu/2019/04/18/eat-less-live-longer-the-science-of-fasting-and-longevity/

Photograph: Sendo Serra/Shutterstock
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