You’ve probably always been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. However, new information seems to suggest that this may not be as true as you might have guessed. In fact, it is rapidly becoming evident that skipping breakfast in favor of a 16-18 hour period between your last meal at night and your first meal the next day has some amazing health benefits. This practice, frequently referred to as intermittent fasting, has shown itself to be very effective for improving overall health. In this article, we’ll take a look at 3 of the principle benefits of intermittent fasting.
The first and most obvious benefit of intermittent fasting is that it makes keeping your caloric intake under control much easier than it otherwise would be. By leaving a window of only about 6-8 each day during which you will consume food, you make it much less likely that you will eat more calories than you take in. For this reason, intermittent fasting has become a popular tool for those trying to lose weight. Because the meals eaten during this period must be large in order to provide the needed nutrients, this system of eating prevents you from feeling unusually hungry as some dieting plans do. The large meals later in the day keep most people very well satisfied, making weight loss easier than diets that leave people feeling hungry for more.
Secondly, there is some indication that intermittent fasting, when practiced regularly, helps to increase neural function. When the human body goes into a fasted state, a higher than usual level of chemical called BDNF, or brain-derived neurotrophic factor. This growth factor has been shown to increase the overall resistance of neurons to losing functionality over time. Some studies conducted on the effects of this chemical even suggest that it can help to lessen the likelihood of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Because research into the effects of intermittent fasting is fairly new, long term data regarding the frequency and severity of these illnesses in those who fast regularly is not available, but preliminary data on the effects of BDNF strongly suggest that a regular routine of intermittent fasting may help to prevent or slow the progression of these disorders.
The third very significant benefit of intermittent fasting is that it has been shown to increase sensitivity to insulin. Elevated levels of insulin over long periods of time lead to severe resistance to it, which is commonly termed diabetes. The increased sensitivity to insulin makes it easier for your body to absorb glucose from the blood, and also helps to regulate overall blood glucose levels. While these effects may sound fairly minor, the fact of the matter is that they add up to a practical way to increase your body’s sensitivity to insulin and thus help to prevent the development of diabetes. Increased insulin sensitivity has also been shown to promote good cardiovascular health. The clearing of fatty tissues from various areas of the body, as well as a greater ability to absorb blood glucose, helps to reduce arterial blockages and lower blood pressure over time.
As you can see, intermittent fasting has some fairly incredible health benefits. Other than exercise, only intermittent fasting can simultaneously improve neural function, help you to lose weight, and prevent insulin resistance from developing into diabetes. These are only 3 of the benefits of intermittent fasting, and there are many more. After reading this, you may be wondering why periods of caloric restriction are so beneficial. After all, aren’t we supposed to eat 3 meals every day to stay healthy? The truth is that the concept of 3 evenly spaced daily meals is fairly modern. During the hunter-gatherer stage of human development, the food surpluses necessary to eat so many times a day would have been very rare. While agricultural advances have made it possible for us to have these surpluses, our bodies are still adapted to our more natural condition of limited food supplies. The health benefits that we see from intermittent fasting are largely the result of evolutionary mechanisms that would have helped us cope with periods of privation earlier on in our history. Today, however, intentional fasting may hold the key to naturally solving many common health problems.