Ever considered fasting for health? Perhaps now is a good time, during Ramadhan, when your Muslim friends are carrying out their religious obligation of fasting for an entire month. After all, it might be easier to try fasting when the people around you are doing the same.
While there are many ways to fast, the general rule is to abstain from eating for an extended period (the recommended minimum is 12 hours). Some popular forms of fasting include intermittent fasting, the one meal-a-day diet (OMAD), the Warrior diet, and the Eat Stop Eat diet.
The effects of fasting may vary depending on how long your fasts are and how frequently you fast. Fasting has many benefits on not only physical health but also mental health. Here are a few of them:
Boosts brain function and mental acuity
Studies report that fasting can boost brain function and structure by reducing oxidative stress, a known factor contributing to brain ageing that can also impair learning and memory.
Studies have also revealed that fasting can increase the resistance of neurons to degeneration, which may reduce the incidence of neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Fasting also has a similar impact as physical exercise, where our body releases endorphins, hormones that can relieve pain and alleviate depression.
Aids with weight loss and detoxification
When we eat, our body burns food to provide energy for our body. The excess food that isn’t burnt gets converted into fat and is stored in our bodies. Fasting reduces this conversion (excess food to fat) due to the limited calorie intake.
Some processed foods we eat contain toxic additives that are stored in fat. When we fast, the body is forced to burn the stored fat to provide energy, thus removing those toxins.
Improves cardiovascular health
Fasting has been proven to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood, contributing to cardiovascular disease if left unmanaged.
Fasting has also been proven to reduce blood pressure, preventing hypertension.
Inflammation has links to the development of chronic conditions such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Fasting increases the secretion of adiponectin, a hormone that exhibits anti-atherosclerotic and anti-inflammatory effects.
As there are many ways to practice fasting, what might suit someone may differ from person to person. However, despite its many health benefits, fasting may not be for everyone. If you have a pre-existing health condition or are at risk of a chronic condition, it is best to discuss fasting with your doctor before attempting it.
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