Intermittent fasting: What are the benefits?
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Apr 21, 2020.
Intermittent fasting means that you don't eat for a period of time each day or week. Some popular approaches to intermittent fasting include:
- Alternate-day fasting. Eat a normal diet one day and either completely fast or have one small meal (less than 500 calories) the next day.
- 5:2 fasting. Eat a normal diet five days a week and fast two days a week.
- Daily time-restricted fasting. Eat normally but only within an eight-hour window each day. For example, skip breakfast but eat lunch around noon and dinner by 8 p.m.
Some studies suggest that alternate-day fasting is about as effective as a typical low-calorie diet for weight loss. That seems reasonable because reducing the number of calories you eat should help you lose weight.
Can intermittent fasting improve your health? Losing weight and being physically active help lower your risk of obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes, sleep apnea and some types of cancer. For these diseases, intermittent fasting seems to be about as beneficial as any other type of diet that reduces overall calories.
Some research suggests that intermittent fasting may be more beneficial than other diets for reducing inflammation and improving conditions associated with inflammation, such as:
- Alzheimer's disease
- Multiple sclerosis
It's important to note that intermittent fasting can have unpleasant side effects, but they usually go away within a month. Side effects may include:
Intermittent fasting is safe for many people, but it's not for everyone. Skipping meals may not be the best way to manage your weight if you're pregnant or breast-feeding. If you have kidney stones, gastroesophageal reflux, diabetes or other medical problems, talk with your doctor before starting intermittent fasting.