KNOXVILLE — Fasting-abstinence from all or certain kinds of food or drink for a set period- has been prescribed by natural health practitioners, including many chiropractors, for decades. New research is providing valuable information about this traditional health practice, showing us the many (often surprising) ways fasting can benefit our health and well-being. Intermittent fasting is a special type of fasting that involves alternating between periods of fasting and non-fasting (water consumption is allowed and encouraged during the fasting period; tea and coffee may also be allowed in some cases).

The schedule for intermittent fasting can range from every other day (also known as alternate day fasting) to once every other week (for a 16 to 24 hour period) and depends on your specific health goals.

Decreased cardiovascular risk

Your cardiovascular system (i.e., your heart and blood vessels) may significantly benefit from intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting (also known a reduced meal frequency) boosts cardiovascular function and helps minimize several risk factors for coronary artery disease and stroke, including high blood pressure, states a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. The authors of this study also note that the cellular effects of intermittent fasting and caloric restriction on the cardiovascular system ( and the brain) are comparable to those of regular physical activity (i.e., exercise).

Chronic heart failure is a leading cause of death in many countries around the world. According to a study published in the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology, long term intermittent fasting and caloric restriction help accelerate the recovery in individuals with chronic heart failure. Persistent intermittent fasting, note the study authors, helps boost blood vessel density around damaged heart tissue and dramatically improves the long-term survival rate following chronic heart failure.

Reduced weight, lower diabetes risk

Intermittent fasting is a powerful health technique and eating strategy to help you lose weight and reduce your chances of chronic disease, including diabetes. A study published in the British Journal of Diabetes & Vascular Disease states that intermittent fasting encourages weight loss in obese individuals and that limiting calories in this specific way can reverse type 2 diabetes. The authors also state that intermittent fasting is a cost-effective way to achieve these results and is associated with a low risk of side effects or adverse results. Another study, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, reports that intermittent fasting improves the action of insulin (i.e., how quickly glucose or sugar is removed from the bloodstream) in healthy men. Note: If you are a diabetic interested in intermittent fasting you should always consult your physician before trying this treatment approach.

Improved cognitive function

Some studies indicate that intermittent fasting and caloric restriction help improve cognitive function, awareness, reasoning, perception, and judgment. According to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, caloric restriction or a diet lower in calories contributes to enhanced memory performance in healthy elderly individuals.

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