You might have heard of the 5:2 diet, or people eating during a particular time slot. There are lots of versions of fasting, so it can be tricky to understand which one is the best option for you. What are the benefits of intermittent fasting, does it work?

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a diet plan that involves going for extended periods of time without eating or eating very little.

After this period, you eat normally for another chunk of time.

The BUPA site lists four popular versions of fasting, but there are other options.

Alternate day fasting, also known as ADF, is when you fast on alternate days and eat what you want on ‘eating days’.

The famous 5:2 diet requires followers to reduce their calorie intake on two days each week.

You must eat around 500 to 600 calories on these days, and a healthy, balanced diet on the other days.

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Another form of intermittent fasting is the 16:8 diet, which involves only eating during eight hours of the day.

Most people simply eat breakfast later and dinner earlier – for example, they eat between 10am and 6pm.

The harshest form of intermittent fasting is a 24 hour fast, which is what it says on the tin.

The 24 hour fast involves consuming no calories on one day of the week or month.

Another version of this is the Eat Stop Eat fast, which requires participants to fast for 24 hours up to two times a week.

In this fast, you don’t eat from dinner one day until dinner the next day.

What are the benefits of intermittent fasting? Does it work?

Intermittent fasting does work. It has shown a number of health benefits in many short-term studies.

Weight loss

By controlling how many calories you consume and preventing overeating and snacking, you can easily lose weight with intermittent fasting.

It also means you don’t need to cut out food groups or naughty treats completely, you just need to be mindful and eat within a specific window.

Short-term fasting increases your metabolic rate by 3.6 to 14 percent, according to a number of studies.

This means you are burning more calories and eating fewer– a recipe for weight loss.

One 2014 study found intermittent fasting can cause weight loss of three to eight percent over three to 24 weeks, which is a huge bonus!

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Reduce risk of diabetes

High blood sugar levels in the context of insulin resistance is a main feature of type to diabetes.

Anything that reduces insulin resistance should lower blood sugar levels and therefore protect against type two diabetes.

Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels in this way.

Some studies have found that intermittent fasting has reduced blood sugar by three to six percent and insulin by 20 to 31 percent.

If you are at risk of developing type two diabetes, a condition liked to being overweight, inactive or having a family history type two diabetes, this diet plan will help.

Improved brain and mental health

Intermittent fasting is great for your brain.

It reduces oxidative stress, inflammation, blood sugar levels and insulin resistance – all great things for brain health.

The diet also helps to prevent Alzheimer’s disease or reducing its severity.

It may also protect against other neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.

A happier body is a happier brain, and intermitting fasting may boost your mood and help you sleep better.

Decreased risk of heart disease and cancer

Intermittent fasting improves a number of risk factors associated with heart disease, including blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and more.

Heart disease is the world’s biggest killer, so this is definitely something to take into consideration.

Cancer is another disease that intermittent fasting may help to prevent.

The diet’s effect on metabolism may lead to a reduced risk of cancer, and some cancer patients have reduced side effects of chemotherapy when fasting intermittently.

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