Many of the well-known diets are based on scientific discoveries, but almost none of them follow the facts. In a frenzy to make people enroll in a new way of losing weight and gain self-esteem and confidence, marketing trumps science. The result is a polished version of the facts, where the benefits are highly praised while the risks are downplayed. 

Intermittent fasting isn’t about what you eat, but when you eat.
Intermittent fasting: a scientific summary - scientific articles

Something similar is happening with Intermittent Fasting (or the 5:2 diet), a diet that’s showing up in headlines a lot more often lately. Put plainly, this diet doesn’t necessarily focus on what you eat, but on when you eat it. The dieter sets a window for eating and fasts for the rest of the hours in the day. Basically, if you’ve skipped breakfast or lunch before, you’ve tried a version of IF (Intermittent Fasting).

Now, while studies on mice showed there are benefits for both the body and the brain, there still isn’t enough data on human studies. Still, many scientists agree the diet does have a positive impact. It is believed that IF works so well because it taps into the way our ancestors used to live before agriculture when they were organized in hunter-gatherer communities.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Below are some of the most impressive benefits of IF, but here are more details about the diet itself.

A Great Way to Reduce Calories

The marketing version of IF will tell dieters that food intake is naturally restricted because there’s only a short window of time to eat. This way, one wouldn’t be forced to change their diet. However, this approach encourages binge eating and lets dieters believe they can eat anything they want. This is far from the truth and the purpose of the IF!

The mechanism behind weight loss with IF is based on how the body processes the food. Carbs are broken down into sugar, which is used for energy. When there’s an excess, the sugar is stored as fat, in fat cells, where it is transported by insulin.

When you don’t eat (like in between meals), the insulin levels drop and the sugar from fat cells can be released. So, with IF, the goal is to let insulin levels go down farther and for long enough to allow excessive fat to be transformed into energy.

Disease Prevention and Anti-Aging

Human studies show encouraging results when it comes to prolonged longevity and improving the overall health of dieters. It is also believed that IF may have an effect in lowering blood pressure and inflammation, as well as improve glucose circulation and lipid levels, thus lowering the risks of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. However, the data available right now is insufficient to make a statement.

Short-term fasting was also proved to induce autophagy, which is when the body removes dead cells and recycles damaged proteins. This too plays a role in disease prevention.

Superior Mental Performance

With IF, your brain cells can repair themselves and recycle for optimal function through neuronal autophagy (a sort of brain cleanup). If neuronal autophagy doesn’t happen or is disrupted, neurodegeneration can occur, causing the brain to be functionally insufficient and damping you performing at your full potential.

IF is known to trigger ketogenesis, which is when the body uses fat as a source of energy. Fat is turned into ketone bodies, which are used by the organs (primarily the brain) as energy. As it turns out, there is some scientific evidence that this process can improve mental sharpness, but the data are scarce.

Is Intermittent Fasting a Good Diet?

For those of you looking for their new miracle diet, the answer may be disappointing because it depends. There are plenty of people who swear by IF, but there are also risks that shouldn’t be ignored or buried.

Generally, fasting is safe and humans and other animals have been doing it for a long time. However, you should consult a doctor before even considering fasting. IF is known to cause dehydration, loss of focus, intense hunger sensation, and has other side effects of which you should be aware.

According to scientists, in terms of weight loss, IF has similar effects to other restrictive diets. However, it comes with a series of benefits that still fascinate the academic world!

About the author: Sarah is the Content Director at Perfect Keto, with a mission to help as many people as possible achieve optimal health and well-being.

Stay up to date with the latest in science! Subscribe to our newsletter to receive weekly science news updates!