Fasting reduces cholesterol and can combat diabetes in prediabetic people. “Fasting has the potential to become an important diabetes intervention,” said Dr. Benjamin Horne, director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Utah.
In his study, Dr. Horne and his team tracked 12 prediabetic men and women between between the ages of 30 and 69 for six weeks. The subjects had to have at least three metabolic risk factors: a large waist, high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, and a high fasting blood sugar level.
After doing a one-day fast every week, the subjects each lost an average of three pounds, and their baseline cholesterol levels fell 12%.
"When you fast, it switches your body from using blood sugar to using fats for energy," said Horne. "The body starts scavenging fat from wherever it can find it, temporarily increasing the amount of fats and cholesterol in the blood stream. Burning fat cells means less of them are available to contribute to the development of insulin resistance."
In addition to curbing diabetes and accelerating weight loss, studies show periodic fasting prevents heart disease, cancer (especially breast cancer) and has powerful anti-aging effects.
Periodic Fasting Causes 1,000% Spike in Human Growth Hormone
Previous research from Intermountain Medical indicated that periodic fasting dramatically boosts human growth hormone. In a recent study, men who fasted for 24 hours experienced a 2,000% spike in HGH, while women saw a 1,300% increase. Studies show fasting stabilizes blood sugar and improves cholesterol.
Fasting as little as eight days a year can also have significant anti-aging benefits, even for older people and cancer patients (who already have compromised immune systems).
Research from the USC Davis School of Gerontology indicates that fasting for two to four days at a time can regenerate your entire immune system — especially for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it does is recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged. If you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or aging, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system."
Scientists said fasting "flips a switch," and causes the body to break down white blood cells (which defend the body against disease) and create new ones. "
It gives the 'OK' for stem cells to begin proliferating and rebuild the entire immune system," said study author Dr. Valter Longo, a professor of gerontology at USC. "And the good news is that the body got rid of the parts that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during fasting."
Intermittent Fasting Supercharges Weight Loss, Preserves Lean Muscle
Fasting for an entire day or two at a time can be difficult for most people, but you can reap the anti-aging (and weight loss) benefits of calorie restriction through intermittent fasting, which calls for alternating days of feeding and fasting.
IF proponents say periodically skipping meals accelerates weight loss by reducing digestion-related blood sugar spikes. Intermittent fasting can protect brain health and slow down aging by limiting the oxidative and metabolic stresses that damage cells, the Wall Street Journal reported.
According to research by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), intermittent fasting is better than conventional dieting for fueling weight loss, improving brain health, and maintaining lean muscle mass. "Just as exercise makes muscles stronger, fasting makes the brain stronger," said Dr. Mark Mattson, chief of the NIA's neurosciences lab.
What's more, this pattern of intermittent fasting helped the animals maintain their lean muscle mass even as they aged — the exact opposite of what happens to both animals and people as they get older.
Similar experiments conducted on humans (alternating between days of normal eating and calorie restriction) showed the same effects. Dr. Mattson said fasting for short periods of time like 16 to 24 hours induces a state of stress in the body, which responds by releasing neurotrophic proteins that stimulate neurons and other cells.
Actor Hugh Jackman recently credited intermittent fasting for helping him achieve his rippling Wolverine body. Jackman, 45, said IF also gave him more energy and improved his sleep. Jackman said he was inspired to follow intermittent fasting after reading The 8-Hour Diet by David Zinczenko, the former editor-in-chief of Men's Health.
Hugh's 16/8 intermittent fasting protocol involves doing all his eating for the day during an eight-hour window and then not eating at all (except for water) for 16 hours. Jackman typically consumes all his calories between 10 am and 6 pm. It's an eating plan he follows even when he's not training for a role.
IF Beats Conventional Dieting for Weight Loss
Intermittent fasting has rocketed in popularity, thanks to the runaway success of The Fast Diet (or 5:2 diet), which calls for fasting (500 calories a day) for two days of the week and eating whatever you want the other five days.
Another popular intermittent fasting diet is the "Every Other Day Diet," where you alternate every other day between fasting and regular eating. Thousands of people claim they rapidly shed dramatic amounts of weight on both these IF regimes.
While most people may think dieters will overeat on their "feasting" days, this rarely happens, said Dr. Krista Varady, author of the Every Other Day Diet. "Something keeps people from really binging on that feed day,” said Varady.
“SWe're seeing that the people in the every-other-day group are losing more weight — about 5 to 7 pounds more — because they're just able to stick to it longer. They like that they're always able to look forward to the next day when they can eat whatever they want."