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Intermittent fasting refers to an eating pattern that focuses on when to eat rather than what to eat. It helps people lose weight because they eat less within a certain time frame, but there are many other health benefits that make it attractive. Below are just a few of the reasons people are excited about the practice.

Cellular repair

Autophagy is the body’s system of cleaning house, where certain cells hunt for unhealthy waste and recycle it. This is a necessary kind of cellular repair, but it can only occur in a fasted state. Dr. Jason Fung, director of Toronto’s Intensive Dietary Management Program, believes autophagy contributes to many anti-aging benefits.

Along those same lines, fasting stimulates the production of human growth hormone, which helps the body maintain lean muscle mass and increase bone density.

Disease prevention

Intermittent fasting may also play an important role in the prevention of many diseases, including Type 2 Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Research has shown that fasting decreases insulin levels and improves insulin sensitivity over time, which is great news for those suffering from Type 2 Diabetes. Studies show that fasting also lowers blood sugar levels. In his book, The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting, Fung stated that because fasting lowers insulin levels, it can often protect against and even reverse Type 2 Diabetes. He also said that fasting is the quickest and most efficient way to reverse the disease.

Intermittent fasting might also affect Alzheimer’s Disease, which is caused by an abnormal buildup of certain proteins in the brain. Fung discusses how fasting triggers autophagy removes these proteins, offering hope that fasting could help prevent the disease.

Lowers blood cholesterol

Studies indicate that fasting lowers LDL, or the “bad” cholesterol in blood dramatically. During a fast, the body eventually begins to burn fat for energy instead of sugar or carbohydrates, essentially removing the unhealthy fat from the blood.

Improved mental clarity and concentration

Research shows that fasting stimulates the brain’s production of brain derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. BDNF is responsible for the production of new neurons and prevents brain cells from dying. BDNF also increases alertness and brain activity. Low levels of BDNF are related to Alzheimer’s, accelerated aging, and obesity.

Reduced inflammation

Crohn’s disease, arthritis, asthma and cancer are related to chronic inflammation in the body.  There is also evidence that fasting can have a positive effect on these conditions by inhibiting the production of a compound that drives the body’s inflammatory response.

Flexibility

Aside from the health benefits, intermittent fasting is incredibly flexible. There is no set duration, day of the week, or time required with it. The process requires no special foods, and it doesn’t cost any money. People can fast for 18 hours or 18 days. People can skip breakfast on one day or dinner the next. In addition, intermittent fasting works with all just about any kind of diet including vegan, keto, gluten-free and paleo. Having said that, there’s no reason not to give the process a try.