Intermittent fasting is a popular approach to dieting and weight management with numerous different modalities of fasting windows to fit your specific needs and lifestyle.
But what are the benefits of intermittent fasting to make you want to choose it over other popular diets for weight loss?
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting 16/8 vs the health benefits of intermittent fasting with even longer fasting windows? Are there specific benefits of intermittent fasting for women vs men?
In this article, we will discuss the health benefits of intermittent fasting, touching upon specific benefits of intermittent fasting for women and benefits of intermittent fasting 16/8 as well other fasting schedules.
We will cover the following:
- 9 Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
- Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Women
Let’s dive in!
9 Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting can include the following:
#1: Intermittent Fasting Can Help You Lose Weight
One of the main benefits of an intermittent fasting diet (like 18/6 intermittent fasting) is the potential to lose weight and improve body composition.
The primary way in which intermittent fasting can promote fat loss is by restricting caloric intake, which in turn helps generate a caloric deficit necessary to lose weight.
When you are following an intermittent fasting diet, you are limiting the number of hours per day in which you can consume calories.
This will prevent overheating, emotional eating, and mindless grazing and can help you try to think more critically about what you are going to eat to promote satiety over the prolonged fasting window.
A review of 27 intermittent fasting dietary interventions found that all 27 studies resulted in weight loss of 0.8% to 13.0% of the starting weight with no serious adverse events.
In addition to helping control caloric intake, one of the weight loss benefits of intermittent fasting is the effect that extended fasting has on insulin levels and blood sugar regulation.
Insulin resistance is associated with fat gain, particularly central abdominal obesity, and because intermittent fasting can improve your sensitivity to insulin and reduces insulin levels, some of this risk may be thwarted.
Furthermore, one of the benefits of intermittent fasting diets vs. traditional caloric restriction weight loss diets is that studies suggest that periodic fasting can increase lipolysis, which is the breakdown of body fat for energy without slowing metabolic rate, a common consequence of prolonged caloric restriction.
Intermittent fasting is thought to stoke the process of lipolysis due to the reduced insulin levels, decreased frequency of blood sugar spikes because of the vastly restricted eating window, and the increase in human growth hormone and norepinephrine.
This may help burn body fat more efficiently when using intermittent fasting for fat loss vs regular caloric restriction diets.
#2: Intermittent Fasting Can Reduce the Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke
Another benefit of intermittent fasting is that it may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by improving various markers of heart health.
Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that intermittent fasting helps increase brain-derived neurotrophic factors, much like aerobic exercise. This, in turn, helps improve heart health and brain health by reducing oxidative damage and increasing the resistance to stress that your cells exhibit.
This helps your heart and brain cells be more fortified to thwart ischemic injury, which reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke.
This is a potentially harmful compound produced by intestinal bacteria associated with an increased risk of CAD.
Similarly, another health benefit of intermittent fasting for cardiovascular function is the fact that if you are able to successfully lose weight and reduce body fat, you will help indirectly reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.
Obesity and excess body fat are associated with an increased risk of these conditions.
#3: Intermittent Fasting May Reduce Oxidative Stress
One of the main health benefits of intermittent fasting is that it may help defend your body from oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress occurs when free radicals, which are reactive oxygen species, interact with the cells and tissues in your body.
Oxidative damage from free radicals is associated with the premature breakdown of proteins and cellular membranes, alterations to DNA, and cellular aging.
#4: Intermittent Fasting Can Reduce Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is thought to be one of the key drivers of many chronic diseases, such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
The good news is that one of the benefits of intermittent fasting is that it can reduce inflammation by turning off pro-inflammatory pathways and keeping DNA, cells, tissues, and proteins spared from excessive oxidative damage.
#5: Intermittent Fasting May Reduce the Risk of Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome refers to a cluster of five adverse health issues: abdominal obesity, hypertension, high blood sugar, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and high triglycerides.
A health benefit of intermittent fasting is reducing the risk of this condition because it may help improve several of these markers by helping to decrease abdominal fat, increase HDL cholesterol, decrease triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, and improve blood sugar.
Intermittent fasting also reduces insulin levels, which can decrease the risk of insulin resistance, one of the primary sequelae of metabolic syndrome.
#6: Intermittent Fasting May Increase Growth Hormone
Human growth hormone (HGH) supports enhanced muscle building and cellular repair, and accelerates fat burning.
One of the benefits of heavy resistance training is that it can increase levels of HGH.
While this is not to say that intermittent fasting should supplant resistance training in your overall health routine, there is also evidence to suggest that intermittent fasting can also increase levels of HGH.
Shorter intermittent fasting protocols may help boost HGH levels, but generally, it takes fasting 24-48 hours to see a significant spike.
#7: Intermittent Fasting May Stimulate Autophagy
As mentioned, prolonged fasting induces autophagy, which is a cellular clean-up process whereby the healthy cells get rid of cellular waste products and dead and dying cells.
The process of autophagy improves cellular health, reduces inflammation, supports new cellular growth, and may help protect against premature aging.
#8: Intermittent Fasting May Help Improve Brain Health
Despite a lack of human studies to date, animal studies suggest that fasting may stimulate neurogenesis (the growth of new neurons) and may increase longevity.
#9: Intermittent Fasting Diets May Help Fight Certain Cancers
Certain cancers are caused by underlying inflammation that has become chronic.
An intermittent fasting diet can reduce chronic inflammation, which may help attenuate this risk.
Similarly, prolonged fasting will induce autophagy, the “cell clean up“ process that helps remove damaged cells, proteins, DNA, RNA, and cell fragments.
Taken together, these health benefits of fasting may reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Additionally, even though the evidence from human studies is limited, evidence from animal studies suggests that fasting may also help the body fight certain cancers by making tumor cells more sensitive to chemotherapy agents.
This means that if you do end up coming down with a type of cancer, it may be easier to kill off tumor cell growth and beat the cancer into remission with cancer treatments.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Women
Because the 16/8 intermittent fasting diet is particularly popular, it makes sense to briefly touch upon the benefits of 16/8 intermittent fasting.
In general, most of the same health benefits previously mentioned apply at least in part to 16/8 intermittent fasting.
Another major benefit of intermittent fasting 16/8 versus more aggressive intermittent fasting diet protocols is that the 16/8 intermittent fasting schedule strikes a doable balance between providing many of the health benefits in a more feasible and comfortable way.
Restricting your eating window to eight hours can still help you control caloric intake without feeling starving for most of the day.
You can also more easily fit in workouts while still fueling well before and after because you have enough time during your eating window to exercise compared with something like a 20/4 intermittent fasting diet or a one meal a day (OMAD) diet.
Finally, it is helpful to mention that the aforementioned health benefits of an intermittent fasting diet are also applicable as intermittent fasting benefits for women.
In most cases, gender identity—and even biological sex—do not play into the specific health benefits of intermittent fasting.
That said, intermittent fasting may not be safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
If you have concerns or questions about whether intermittent fasting is the right dieting approach for you, you should speak with your healthcare provider or work with a registered dietitian and a nutritionist for individualized guidance.
If you have no contraindications to intermittent fasting and are interested in reaping some of the intermittent fasting benefits, check out our guide to 16/8 intermittent fasting here.