Fasting can improve reproductive and mental health, as well as lower the risk of musculoskeletal disorders in women, according to a recent review published in the Journal of Mid-Life Health. Researchers from the National Institute of Naturopathy in India found evidence that fasting not only prevents metabolic disorders, but it also improves bone health. The researchers used the term “fasting” to refer to intermittent fasting, calorie restriction and fasting according to religious beliefs.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is currently one of the most popular fitness trends around the world. Many people use it not only to lose weight, but also to improve their overall health.
Intermittent fasting, as the name suggests, is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of eating and abstinence. Intermittent fasting is technically not a diet and does not recommend or discourage the consumption of certain types of food. Instead, intermittent fasting only dictates when an individual should eat by splitting the day or week into eating and fasting periods.
There are several ways of doing intermittent fasting, such as:
- The 16/8 method – This method is also known as the Leangains protocol. It involves restricting a day’s meals to an eight-hour period and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. Individuals who choose to follow this method often extend their fasting by skipping breakfast.
- Eat-Stop-Eat – A more “extreme” method of intermittent fasting, eat-stop-eat involves 24-hour fasts performed twice a week.
- The 5:2 diet – This method involves consuming only 500-600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week. A person following this diet may eat as usual on the other five days.
The important thing to remember about intermittent fasting is that it requires a person to either eat very little or eat nothing at all. However, water and zero-calorie teas and beverages may still be consumed during periods of fasting.
The effects of intermittent fasting on metabolism
Intermittent fasting “resets” the body’s metabolic processes and allows cells to regenerate, leading to many documented benefits. For instance, intermittent fasting has been shown to lower the risk of metabolic abnormalities and cardiovascular disease, according to the review done by Indian researchers. Intermittent fasting is also said to aid in weight loss, reduce fat tissues and lower blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol (LDL) levels.
Moreover, intermittent fasting can help regulate insulin production in pre-diabetic and diabetic individuals, effectively lowering their risk of Type 2 diabetes and slowing down the disease’s progression, respectively. (Related: Intermittent fasting for women: How it can help you, and the warning signs to watch out for.)
The effects of intermittent fasting on bone health
According to a recent article by natural health writer Robert Rister, intermittent fasting may prevent the loss of bone mineral density in women who are at risk of osteoporosis. However, the effects of intermittent fasting on bone health may vary. For instance, Rister wrote that intermittent fasting neither positively nor negatively affects bone health in non-diabetic women. On the other hand, it can significantly improve bone health in women who have an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. In such cases, intermittent fasting helps prevent osteoporosis.
In their review, Indian researchers found numerous studies on fasting and musculoskeletal health that support this. According to them, fasting affects the parathyroid hormone, which plays an important role in calcium and phosphate metabolism and the bone remodeling process. Fasting was also found to relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis by reducing inflammation. In fact, fasting for at least seven days helped reduce joint pain and stiffness in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis.
Meanwhile, calorie restriction, which shares similarities with the 5:2 diet, was found to slow the progression of age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis. Researchers believe that the reduction in weight caused by fasting can lead to a lower risk of bone fractures.
Intermittent fasting is an effective and natural way of preventing bone-related diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Individuals diagnosed with any of these conditions can try intermittent fasting to prevent bone loss and improve their quality of life.
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