Whether you want to lose weight or simply get a quick dose of health, fasting could do the job for you
With Ramadan setting the tone for spiritual renewal and ushering in the tenets of abstinence and sharing, now is the time to bask in the all-encompassing mood of the season, Muslim or otherwise. It could be an act of charity, a decision to stop smoking or simply incorporating fasting into your lifestyle. While giving up smoking has obvious health benefits and charity can only spread goodwill, it is fasting that could act as a driving force to experience the essence of the season.
For, fasting has its own health benefits…
Boosts weight loss
Weight loss is the obvious benefit, as studies have shown that intermittent fasting does allow the body to burn fat cells more effectively than through regular dieting. It makes one eat fewer meals and does enhance hormone function, which facilitates weight loss. Intermittent fasting is known to increase the metabolic rate by 3.6 to 14 percent, helping the body burn more calories. As the digestive system gets a rest, it energises the metabolism to burn calories more efficiently.
Studies have shown that such fasting can cause weight loss of 3 to 8 percent over a period of 3 to 24 weeks. It is said to be effective in losing belly fat too.
Reduces diabetes risk
With Type 2 diabetes becoming common in recent decades, the focus is on reducing insulin resistance to help lower blood sugar levels. Intermittent fasting has been shown to have major benefit in insulin resistance, leading to an impressive reduction in blood sugar levels. Studies on intermittent fasting have shown that fasting blood sugar is reduced by 3 to 6 percent, while fasting insulin is reduced by 20 to 31 percent. One study also found that intermittent fasting can protect against kidney damage, which is one of the most severe complications of diabetes.
Improves eating patterns
Ironic as it may sound, fasting is said to improve eating habits of people who suffer from binge eating disorders and those who find it difficult to establish a correct eating pattern due to their lifestyle and work pressures. Fasting regulates eating times, leaving no room for binge eating as the requisite calories are consumed in one sitting.
Enhances brain function
Fasting boosts the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). It activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons and triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health. This protein is also said to protect the brain cells from changes associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. A deficiency of BDNF has been implicated in depression and other brain problems.
Interestingly, eating less has a big say on longevity. The less one eats, the longer he/she lives, say medical experts, who found that people in certain cultures have longer lifespans due to their diets. As one of the primary effects of ageing is a slower metabolism, fasting will also mean less toll on the digestive system. Studies on rats have, in fact, shown that intermittent fasting does extend their lifespan; rats which fasted every other day lived 83 percent longer than other rats.
Benefits heart health
Heart disease, rated as the biggest killer in the world, can benefit from intermittent fasting. Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can improve numerous heart disease risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglycerides and inflammatory markers.
The impact of food, especially fried snacks, on the skin has been well documented. So it should come as no surprise that fasting can indeed help clear the skin and even prevent acne. This is possible because the body’s attention is shifted from digestion to regeneration, helping the body glow with energy. In fact, even fasting for one day is known to help the body clean up the toxins while regulating the functions of other organs.
Fasting has a big role to play in improving the immune system. It reduces free radical damage, regulates inflammatory conditions in the body and starves off cancer cell formation. Even in the animal world, sick creatures are known to temporarily stop eating to reduce stress on the internal system and help the body fight infection.