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Boost Weight Loss

Studies show that no matter what your method of fasting, you’re likely to lose some weight when you do it. But a bigger benefit to note is that fasting also works to bust belly fat. Carrying too much weight around the middle raises your risk of heart disease, so losing it can give your health a boost.

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Lower Blood Pressure

The science is pretty sound on the positive effect fasting has on your blood pressure. You’ll see a decrease when you stick to it for a long period of time. But once you stop, your readings go back to what they were before you started.

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Ease Inflammation

Small proteins called inflammatory cytokines kick off the inflammation process in your body. Studies on men and women who fasted during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan showed that the number of these proteins drops after 3 weeks of fasting. Similar studies on adults with asthma showed the same result: Fasting improves symptoms and lung function.

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Lower Cholesterol

There’s no solid proof yet, but a few small studies show that fasting -- especially every other day or alternate-day fasting -- can lower LDL cholesterol. That’s the type that can build up in your arteries. Fasting doesn’t seem to affect HDL cholesterol.

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Boost Brain Function

So far, most information about fasting and brain function comes from non-human research. Studies of fasting rats show improvement in both brain structure and growth of nerve cells that improve brain function. Experts are looking into how this might help slow conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

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Cut Cancer Risk

Animal and cell studies show fasting may help block tumor growth and help chemotherapy work better in people with cancer. There isn’t enough research yet on humans to know how fasting affects cancer risk in people.

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Improve Insulin Resistance

Recent studies in people with insulin resistance suggest that fasting can improve how well insulin works in the body. Research is still ongoing.

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Better Sleep

The jury’s out on how fasting might affect your shut-eye. Some studies say it can lower the amount of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the sleep phase where you dream and your brain puts memories together. Other studies suggest fasting might raise the levels of chemicals that make you feel more awake during the day.

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Longer Life

Scientists say we need more research on humans to say for sure whether fasting adds years to your life. But so far, studies show that it improves health in ways that would help you live longer, like reducing cell damage.

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Stronger Immune System

Fasting could help boost immunity, but there isn’t much research on humans yet. Studies on rats and a small group of people in a clinical trial show that fasting while on chemotherapy helps to protect white blood cells and also grow new ones.

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Clearer Skin

There are plenty of claims that fasting helps clear up acne and improve skin, but there isn’t much science to back it up. Not many studies have been done yet to find out what impact fasting has on skin health.

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Better Stroke Outcomes

In animals, studies show fasting protects the brain from damage after a stroke and speeds recovery. But there aren’t any studies that prove this in humans yet.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 05/12/2020 Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on May 12, 2020

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SOURCES:

Annual Review of Nutrition: “Metabolic Effects of Intermittent Fasting.”

Translational Research: “Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Belly fat may pose more danger for women than for men.”

Nutrients: “Fasting and Its Impact on Skin Anatomy, Physiology, and Physiopathology: A Comprehensive Review of the Literature,” “Fasting as a Therapy in Neurological Disease.” “Intermittent Fasting in Cardiovascular Disorders -- An Overview.”

Nutrition Research: “Intermittent Fasting During Ramadan Attenuates Proinflammatory Cytokines and Immune Cells in Healthy Subjects.”

Free Radical Biology and Medicine: “Alternate Day Calorie Restriction Improves Clinical Findings and Reduces Markers of Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in Overweight Adults With Moderate Asthma.”

Obesity: “Alternate day fasting and endurance exercise combine to reduce body weight and favorably alter plasma lipids in obese humans,” “Differential Effects of Alternate‐Day Fasting Versus Daily Calorie Restriction on Insulin Resistance.”

PloSOne: “Chronic Intermittent Fasting Improves Cognitive Functions and Brain Structures in Mice.”

Journal of Molecular Neuroscience: “Dietary Restriction Increases the Number of Newly Generated Neural Cells, and Induces BDNF Expression, in the Dentate Gyrus of Rats.”

Neurobiology of Disease: “Intermittent Fasting and Caloric Restriction Ameliorate Age-Related Behavioral Deficits in the Triple-Transgenic Mouse Model of Alzheimer's Disease.”

Journal of Neuroscience Research: “Dietary Restriction and 2-deoxyglucose Administration Improve Behavioral Outcome and Reduce Degeneration of Dopaminergic Neurons in Models of Parkinson's Disease.”

Science Translational Medicine: “Fasting Cycles Retard Growth of Tumors and Sensitize a Range of Cancer Cell Types to Chemotherapy.”

Sleep and Breathing: “The Effect of Intermittent Fasting During Ramadan on Sleep, Sleepiness, Cognitive Function, and Circadian Rhythm.”

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep.”

Annals of Thoracic Medicine: “The Effects of Diurnal Intermittent Fasting on the Wake-Promoting Neurotransmitter orexin-A.”

Cell Metabolism: “Metabolic Slowing and Reduced Oxidative Damage with Sustained Caloric Restriction Support the Rate of Living and Oxidative Damage Theories of Aging.”

Rejuvenation Research: “Prolonged Fasting/Refeeding Promotes Hematopoietic Stem Cell Regeneration and Rejuvenation.”

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on May 12, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.