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Intermittent Fasting: The Why & How

Intermittent Fasting: The Why & How

Written by: Dr. Filza Swalah, ND 

Imagine a health habit that not only helps shed excess pounds but also boosts longevity and optimizes cellular health.  Enter intermittent fasting, a practice that is all the rage right now with no signs of the hype slowing down. Beyond the realm of fad diets and quick fixes, intermittent fasting offers a scientifically-backed method to unlock a multitude of benefits. From enhanced weight loss and improved blood sugar control to rejuvenated cellular health, this powerful habit can elevate your health journey.  

What is Intermittent fasting?1 
Intermittent fasting is more of an eating pattern than it is a diet. It’s rooted in establishing a “feeding time” and a “fasting time”. There are many different methods of establishing these times: 
  • 16:8 method: This is the most popular and well-known method. It means you fast for 16 hours and only eat for 8 hours. This usually means you are skipping breakfast or having an early dinner. 
  • The Eat-stop-eat method involves 24-hour fasts, twice a week on non-consecutive days. 
  • 5:2 diet: Eating a low -calorie diet (500-600 kcals/day) for two non-consecutive days with normal eating patterns for the other 5 days of the week. 

Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting:  
 1. Fasting for Weight Loss: Shedding Pounds the Intermittent Way

Weight loss is a common goal for many individuals, and intermittent fasting has emerged as one of the most effective ways of shedding some pounds.  By strategically timing your eating windows and fasting periods, you can tap into your body's natural fat-burning mechanisms. Here's how intermittent fasting aids weight loss: 

  • It uses fat for energy. During fasting periods, the body will tap into its energy reserves, fat being a major one.  
  • Smaller eating window means less snacking. There is only so much you can eat in 8 hours and with a strict eating deadline, it can prevent you from mindlessly snacking after dinner. 

     2. Fasting and Longevity: Unlocking the Secrets of Aging Well  

    Beyond weight loss, intermittent fasting has been linked to enhanced longevity and improved cellular health. Here’s what the research says: 

    • It can help with cellular repair. Intermittent fasting triggers a cellular process called autophagy, - a powerful housekeeping mechanism that removes damaged cells and reuses their old parts.2 It’s important for this cellular process to happen optimally since it can help prevent and fight metabolic conditions.2 
    • It can help reduce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants. Free radicals are unstable chemical compounds, created from chronic stress, alcohol intake, smoking (even second-hand smoke), and pollutants like smog3, and are often associated with many age-related chronic conditions. Intermittent fasting has been linked to a reduction in oxidative stress by decreasing free radical production and enhancing antioxidants.5 
    • It can  decrease inflammation. Intermittent fasting can decrease chronic inflammation which is linked to a broad spectrum of health conditions like arthritis.6  

       3. Fasting and Hormone Production: Harmonizing Hormones for Optimal Well-being  

      Here's what the research says:

        • It regulates insulin. This hormone is released in response to blood sugar levels, so when you’re constantly eating and snacking, insulin levels tend to remain high, which can lead to insulin resistance and metabolic disorders like type 2 diabetes. Intermittent fasting can prevent this from happening since a fasting state can slow down insulin production.7  
        • It resets appetite hormones. Leptin and ghrelin are two key hormones that regulate feelings of hunger and fullness. Intermittent fasting can help decrease ghrelin levels, the hormone that makes you feel hungry, and studies show fasting can help increase feelings of fullness and decrease the desire to eat.8 

        Intermittent fasting can be a transformative change to overall health and wellness. Remember to speak to a regulated healthcare professional before starting any new dietary changes.   


        1. Gunnars, K. (2022, June 16). Intermittent fasting 101 - the ultimate beginner's guide. Healthline. Retrieved September 9, 2022, from 
        2. Bagherniya, M., Butler, A. E., Barreto, G. E., & Sahebkar, A. (2018). The effect of fasting or calorie restriction on autophagy induction: A review of the literature. Ageing research reviews, 47, 183–197. 
        3. Griendling, K. K., Touyz, R. M., Zweier, J. L., Dikalov, S., Chilian, W., Chen, Y.-R., Harrison, D. … & American Heart Association Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences. (2016). Measurement of reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, and redox-dependent signaling in the cardiovascular system: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation Research, 119(5), e39–e75. 
        4. Forni, C., Facchiano, F., Bartoli, M., Pieretti, S., Facchiano, A., D’Arcangelo, D., Norelli, S., … & Jadeja, R. N. (2019). Beneficial role of phytochemicals on oxidative stress and age-related diseases. 
        5. Hardiany, N. S., Karman, A. P., Calista, A. S. P., Anindyanari, B. G., Rahardjo, D. E., Novira, P. R., Taufiq, R. R., Imtiyaz, S., & Antarianto, R. D. (2022). The Effect of Fasting on Oxidative Stress in the Vital Organs of New Zealand White Rabbit. Reports of biochemistry & molecular biology, 11(2), 190–199. 
        6. Mount Sinai Health System. (2019, August 22). Mount Sinai researchers discover that fasting reduces inflammation and improves chronic inflammatory diseases. Mount Sinai Health System.  
        7. Yuan, X., Wang, J., Yang, S., Gao, M., Cao, L., Li, X., Hong, D., Tian, S., & Sun, C. (2022). Effect of Intermittent Fasting Diet on Glucose and Lipid Metabolism and Insulin Resistance in Patients with Impaired Glucose and Lipid Metabolism: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. International journal of endocrinology, 2022, 6999907. 
        8. Ravussin, E., Beyl, R. A., Poggiogalle, E., Hsia, D. S., & Peterson, C. M. (2019). Early Time-Restricted Feeding Reduces Appetite and Increases Fat Oxidation But Does Not Affect Energy Expenditure in Humans. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 27(8), 1244–1254. 

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