Fasting has become increasingly popular over the last few years and not only associated with the holy month of Ramadan. Over 1.6 Billion Muslims will partake in the month of Ramadan this month where they will fast between sunrise and sunset. For Muslims, fasting isn’t about health or losing weight, it’s a declaration of faith. There have been a number of studies over the past few years that look into the health benefits of fasting or intermittent fasting. Here is a review of some of the benefits and drawbacks of intermittent fasting.
Helps reduce weight
There are a lot of diet plans out there and most of them talk about reducing your calorific intake and replace meals. The problem is that when the diet is over and you have reached your goal it is easy to go back to old habits and put the weight back on. Intermittent fasting is more of a lifestyle change and a slow burn diet. One of the most popular intermittent fasting diets is the 5:2 plan. Here you eat normally for 5 days and reduce your calorie intake for the other 2. There are many ways you can do this, you can eat nothing for 24 hours or reduce calorie intake to just drink fluids or very light meals. Obviously your 2 days shouldn’t be back to back, spread them throughout the week.
Blood Pressure, Insulin and Cholesterol
Numerous studies have shown that intermittent fasting will help reduce Cholesterol and Insulin which helps break down body fat and boost your energy. Furthermore, intermittent fasting can reduce the body’s resistance to insulin which significantly lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes. Intermittent fasting has shown to relieve stress and high blood pressure that are both key risks for heart disease. When we fast a few days a week the body goes through a process that renews old cells and provides protection against various diseases.
Effect on the Brain
Intermittent fasting can help the brain recover quickly and stay healthy. Reduction in blood sugar and reduced inflammation increase your brain hormones which will keep you alert and focused. As well as helping the brain it prevents diseases that affect the brain such as Alzheimer’s. Fasting can help delay the onset of this degenerative disease.
Potential Risks of Fasting
The most common risk from intermittent fasting is dehydration. If you are consuming less than your body is taking on less water, it is very important you don’t forget to drink on the days you do not eat. Water is essential and black coffee is often used if you get bored with plain water. With no food going in the stomach you are at risk from heartburn from stomach acid and long-term ulcers that can occur if stomach acid builds up against the stomach walls. The mental side of fasting also has to be considered. If you fast 2 days a week don’t over indulge on the other 5, keep to normal meals or it could lead someone to psychological disorders such as bulimia. You also need to be sure you are eating the right nutrients and minerals. Continue to eat fruit and vegetables. If you don’t eat for 2 days, make sure they other 5 you are eating enough fruit and vegetables and not just binge or convenience foods.
Although it is a new way of looking at dieting and nutrition there are some clear health benefits. Further testing on human beings needs to be investigated and researched before we can say there are substantial long-term effects of intermittent fasting, but so far the signs are good. Just make sure you don’t fall for the potential risks and you are clear why you are doing it and stay in control of your diet.
You don’t have to be a Muslim to try an intermittent diet this Ramadan, so why not give it a try.