Many have heard that age old saying, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. But not many can tell you why. Popular belief is that breakfast is a meal that you eat first thing in the morning. While this may be true, the time of day has nothing to do with the meaning of the word. In fact, it has nothing to do with why people say that it is the most important meal either.

The word breakfast literally means to break your fast. A fast is a duration of time that  you do not eat. So you may be asking yourself, “what’s the big deal with not eating?” and “who would want to do that?”. Well science has your answer.

Different cultures and religions have practiced fasting for various reason through history. Many fasts last for 24-72 hours.  In contrast to this continuous long duration fast, an alternate method of fasting, cycles between eating and not eating for controlled time periods. This is called intermittent fasting. For example, you would eat during an 8 hour period and sustain from food for the the remaining 16 hours. As scientists have studied fasting they have determined there are many health benefits too.

Now that you know what fasting is, you may be wondering how to do it. See my blog Intermittent Fasting 101 for the basics on how to fast.

So now for the fun part! Let’s talk about 6 benefits of fasting!

  1. Promotes blood sugar regulation by improving insulin resistance –  According to studies from the National Institute of Health’s PubMed, both intermittent fasting and alternating day fasting have been shown in studies to decrease fluctuations in blood-sugar levels. In addition, these methods reduced calorie intake and insulin resistance. Decreasing insulin resistance, increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin. Thus improving it’s ability to transport glucose from your bloodstream to your cells. This habit could pay huge dividends, especially for persons with diabetes.
  2. Reduce inflammation – Inflammation is a normal immune system response. In many cases, acute inflammation is simply a response to your body fighting off a non-threatening infection. Chronic inflammation is often associated with more severe illness such as heart disease, cancer, or rheumatoid arthritis.  Studies have shown that fasting reduces several inflammatory markers. So regardless of whether your inflammation is acute or chronic, there may be benefits to fasting.
  3. Improve Heart Health – With heart disease being one of the global leading causes of death, who wouldn’t want a little help keeping their heart in tip top shape? Studies have shown that fasting helped decrease LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides. In some cases, over 25% improvement in values was observed!
  4. Increase Human Growth Hormone (HGH) – Want to become the incredible Hulk? Human Growth Hormone isn’t going to turn you green and into someone with superhuman strength, but it is integral to our muscle strength, growth, weight loss and metabolism. Studies of individual’s HGH showed that levels increased significantly from fasting.
  5. Boost in Cognitive Function – Fasting reduces inflammation and increases generation of nerve cells. In return you get improved cognition and brain structure. While this may not turn you into a genius, it can help protect your brain health. In addition, research is hopeful that fasting may improve ones chances against neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases.
  6. Weight loss – Since fasting can restrict calories, it is probably no surprise that a reduced calorie diet can help you lose weight. But did you know that fasting may also boost your metabolism? Intermittent fasting has been shown to increase your body’s levels of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter which when increased help one to lose weight by keeping your metabolic rate revved up!

By pairing a proper nutritious diet and adequate exercise with fasting, one is most likely to benefit from these healthy habits.