Intermittent Fasting Reduces Your Diabetes and Heart Disease Risk, Studies Say

July 13, 2015 | 15,080 views

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Intermittent Fasting Reduces Your Diabetes and Heart Disease Risk, Studies Say

By Dr. Mercola

Did you know that aside from helping you lose weight and supporting your fitness goals, intermittent fasting can also reduce your risk of chronic diseases, particularly heart disease and diabetes?

According to a 2013 review published in the British Journal of Diabetes and Vascular Disease, obese or overweight individuals with type 2 diabetes who fast on consecutive or alternate days not only lost more weight, but also acquired cardioprotective benefits and experienced better heart health.

I believe that this clearly supports the notion that going against the customary "three square meals" a day in favor of intermittent fasting may have superb benefits for your overall health.

Research Confirms How Intermittent Fasting May Be the Key to Fighting Obesity and Diabetes

The report, which evaluated the various approaches to intermittent fasting, particularly its benefits and limitations in fighting type 2 diabetes and obesity, found that fasting had a broad range of therapeutic potential. These effects were seen even though the total calorie intake of the subjects did not change or was only slightly reduced.

The review suggests that intermittent fasting may also play a role in:

  • Limiting inflammation
  • Improving circulating glucose and lipid levels
  • Reducing blood pressure
  • Helping prevent or reverse type 2 diabetes (or even slowing its progression)
  • Causing significant reductions in body weight (especially in obese individuals)
  • Improving metabolic efficiency and body composition
  • Improving insulin levels and insulin sensitivity
  • Improving pancreatic function
  • Reducing LDL and total cholesterol levels
  • Helping modulate levels of visceral fat, the dangerous fat that gathers around your internal organs

Intermittent Fasting Is Not a Diet – It's a Lifestyle

While most people would think that intermittent fasting is a fairly new approach to healthy living, this type of lifestyle has actually been practiced even during the early times. For example, our hunter-gatherer ancestors rarely had access to food 24/7 – this may mean that our genes are likely optimized to consume sporadic, intermittent meals as opposed to regular cycles of feasting. During the 1940s, the benefits of intermittent fasting have also been widely appreciated. There are also religious sects that consider fasting a tradition, even until today.

In my opinion, intermittent fasting is very different from fad diets that are widespread today. It's actually a lifestyle shift – it allows you to live and eat well, but without making you feel as if you are sacrificing too much.

There are three major mechanisms by which fasting benefits your body:

  • It increases your mitochondrial energy efficiency and insulin sensitivity. This helps retards aging and disease, which are both associated with loss of insulin sensitivity and declined mitochondrial energy
  • It reduces oxidative stress. The decreased accumulation of oxidative radicals in your cells helps ward off oxidative damage to lipids, cellular proteins, and nucleic acids
  • Increased resistance to stress, disease, and aging. It induces a cellular stress response that upregulates the expression of genes, helping increase your capacity to cope with stress and resist disease and aging

Aside from these benefits and the apparent weight loss, one of the most wonderful effects of intermittent fasting is its ability to eliminate your hunger and sugar cravings. You lose the desire to eat unhealthy processed foods – a definite advantage that will help you achieve your health and fitness goals.

Another boon of intermittent fasting that I would like to stress on: you're not going to starve yourself. You don't even have to restrict the amount of food you eat. However, please note that you have to be careful in choosing healthy foods. Avoid or minimize your intake of carbs and replace them instead with healthy fats like olive oil, olives, eggs, butter, coconut oil, avocados, and nuts.

It may take a few weeks for your body to shift to fat-burning mode, but once you become "fat adapted," your body will be able to burn your stored fat and you will not need to rely on new carbs for fuel.

Note: Not Everyone Can Do Intermittent Fasting

I would like to warn you, though, that any type of fasting or timed meal schedule may not be recommended for certain groups of people. So if you are hypoglycemic or diabetes, avoid doing intermittent fasting unless your blood glucose and insulin levels have normalized. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should also avoid this type of eating schedule as well.

Addressing proper nutrition is crucial when doing any type of intermittent fasting, so make sure you address your diet. Always listen to your body as well – if you have any hypoglycemic tendencies, or if you are experiencing weakness, headaches, tremors, or irritability, address them immediately, as it may become extremely dangerous if you fail to level out your blood sugar.

For more about this topic, read my article "Intermittent Fasting Shown to Improve Diabetes and Reduce Cardiovascular Risk."