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Fasting an entire Ramadan or Lent is religious. In addition to sharpening your spiritual life, it turns out some amount of fasting also helps your health, research suggests.
It is called intermittent fasting, and it is becoming popular among people looking to shed extra kilogrammes without turning skinny. It is actually a form of diet, and research argue it may slow down ageing and disease.
So what’s intermittent fasting? In one type, you go without food for some period of the day—say 16 hours—then you eat whatever you want the rest of the day.
In the second, you alternate the days you eat and the days you go without food—fasting one day and feasting the next.
This helps explain how intermittent fasting works. Your body runs of glucose, and unused glucose is stored as fat for later use. When you fast for long, glucose become unavailable. To get another fuel or energy source, your body converts the stored body fat into fatty acids, which are absorbed by the blood.
Fatty acids produce ketones—the new body fuel. It is essentially “flipping the metabolic switch,” says Stephen Anton, a researcher at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville.
“This switch,” explains Anton, “can happen after a certain period of time fasting. It’s a gradation in which your metabolism over time shifts to use higher and higher amounts of ketones for energy.”
His team reviewed studies focused on the switch mechanism and benefits of intermittent fasting and published the result of their review in the journal Obesity.
The review suggest intermittent fasting is more healthful than other dieting strategies, since ketones put less stress on cells than the byproducts of other dieting styles, according to a Medical News Today report on the research.
In all 10 clinical trials assessing the effects of alternate-day fasting, the results conclusively pointed to this strategy’s effectiveness when it came to shedding extra kilos. And, 3 out of the 4 studies focused on the restricted timing type of intermittent fasting had similar results.
“So in my mind, it’s not a question of whether it works for producing fat loss,” says Anton. What’s more interesting and more important is what kind of tissue is lost through intermittent fasting.
Other studies reviewed revealed that participants did lose body fat, but did not lose any significant amount of lean tissue—which includes which includes organ tissue, muscular tissue, and bone tissue.
Lean tissue allows your body to keep functioning.
The researchers say that it could help to prolong lifespan, improve functioning of metabolic processes, protect cognitive function, enhance physical performance, reduce harmful instances of inflammation, and shield against cardiovascular diseases.
“An important takeaway is that we all have the ability to switch our metabolism from glucose to ketone utilization. And that switch has the potential to have profound health benefits for us, in addition to the positive changes in body composition,” said Anton. But first get your doctor’s advice before fasting.
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