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Discover the Health and Cognitive Benefits of Fasting

14 June 2017
Thrivous Admin

Fasting Empty Plate

Fasting is becoming a more popular way to manage your food intake to help improve overall health and wellness. Today we’re going to look at the health and cognitive benefits of fasting and whether this might be a healthy habit to add to your weekly health regimen.

Fasting basics

You’re probably already familiar with the basic concept of fasting - abstaining from food for a given period of time - to some degree. But let’s talk about some of the details related to modern fasting, particularly as it occurs outside of a religious or creedal setting, as it primarily has historically.

Limiting food

You can fast by limiting food on certain days of the week or during certain hours of the day, such as restricting caloric intake for 16 hours from dinner to breakfast. As you practice fasting, you may find that some methods work better for you than others.

Improve your body’s ability to fight off disease

One of the main - and most surprising - benefits of fasting is that this practice may help your body to fight off disease.4

A type of reset

Fasting acts as a kind of reset that gives your body a chance to rebuild important physiological pathways that give you the ability to fight disease of all types.

Rebuild physiological pathways

Resting your body from processing calories and nutrients aces as a regular reset for all of your body systems.6

New ways to process energy

When you’re not focused on consuming food, your body needs to work harder for energy and learns new ways to conserve and distribute energy in the healthiest way possible.

Reduce risk for chronic illness

By improving your physiological pathways and balancing your nutrient levels, you can enjoy the benefit of reduced risk for chronic illness when you regularly fast.8

Ward off disease

Overeating and little rest between processing events puts you at risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and more. Fasting does a good job at decreasing some of the likelihood of developing such an illness.

Lose weight

Obviously when you restrict your caloric intake over any sustained period of time, you open the possibility to losing some extra weight.2

Achieve and maintain a healthy weight

Limiting your calories on certain days of the week by fasting can help you to kick some extra pounds, though you should still be sure to get all the nutrients you need.

Improve your brain

In addition to the notable physiological benefits of fasting, it also offers plenty of benefit for your brain.5

High gear

From deepening neurological pathways to heightening your cognition and smoothing your stress reaction, fasting is a good way to get your brain to work better over the long run.

Improve cognitive function

Over time, fasting may improve cognitive function, reducing stress and helping you achieve better mental clarity.3

Better focus

This improved cognitive function can help you to focus on projects at work or school, so regular fasting may set you up for all kinds of practical everyday benefits.

Kickstart your memory

Fasting may also work to improve your memory, by improving neural pathways and calming the brain’s stress reactions.12

Getting past the fog

Even though there may be a bit of short term brain fog associated with fasting, over time you may notice improvements in the overall quality of your memory.

Regulate your brain function

Regular caloric intake may cause over excitement in the brain. This a concern for people with certain conditions.16

Neurological disorders

While many people can deal with this type of stimulation without many immediate adverse effects, children and adults with certain neurological disorders - including epilepsy - cannot. Limiting caloric intake reduces brain excitement and may give you better brain function overall.

Related Studies

  1. Body-composition changes in the Comprehensive Assessment of Long-term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy (CALERIE)-2 study: a 2-y randomized controlled trial of calorie restriction in nonobese humans. In 2017, this study found that "Two years of [calorie restriction] had broadly favorable effects on both whole-body and regional adiposity that could facilitate health span in humans".

  2. Persistence of weight loss and acquired behaviors 2 y after stopping a 2-y calorie restriction intervention. In 2017, this study found that "After a 2-y intensive [calorie restriction] intervention, ∼50% of [calorie restriction]-induced weight loss was maintained 2 y later, which was probably the result of lasting effects on acquired behaviors and dietary restraint".

  3. Effect of Calorie Restriction on Mood, Quality of Life, Sleep, and Sexual Function in Healthy Nonobese Adults: The CALERIE 2 Randomized Clinical Trial. In 2016, this study found that the "[calorie restriction] group had significantly improved mood, reduced tension, and improved general health and sexual drive and relationship at month 24 as well as improved sleep duration at month 12. Greater percent weight loss in the [calorie restriction] group at month 24 was associated with increased vigor and less mood disturbance ... improved general health ... and better sleep quality ... In nonobese adults, [calorie restriction] had some positive effects and no negative effects on health-related [quality of life]".

  4. A 2-Year Randomized Controlled Trial of Human Caloric Restriction: Feasibility and Effects on Predictors of Health Span and Longevity. In 2015, this study found that "[calorie restriction] had larger decreases in cardiometabolic risk factors and in daily energy expenditure adjusted for weight change, without adverse effects on quality of life. ... The effects of the achieved [calorie restriction] on correlates of human survival and disease risk factors suggest potential benefits for aging-related outcomes that could be elucidated by further human studies".

  5. What is the effect of fasting on the lifespan of neurons? In 2015, this study observed that calorie restriction "improves the integrity of animal neurons via a wide range of possible mechanisms including changes in metabolism, oxidative damage, stress responses, growth factors, and gene expression. These mechanisms are extensively interlinked and point to an optimum range of calorie intake, above calorie deprivation and below burdensome calorie excess. Human studies also suggest that [calorie restriction] improves neuron integrity".

  6. Improvement of metabolic parameters in healthy older adult men following a fasting calorie restriction intervention. In 2013, this study found that calorie restriction "improved metabolic parameters and DNA damage in healthy older adult men".

  7. Efficacy of fasting and calorie restriction (FCR) on mood and depression among ageing men. In 2013, this study found that calorie restriction "is effective in improving mood states and nutritional status among ageing men".

  8. Fasting therapy for treating and preventing disease - current state of evidence. In 2013, this study observed that "fasting therapy might contribute to the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases".

  9. Efficacy of fasting calorie restriction on quality of life among aging men. In 2011, this study found that calorie restriction "resulted in body weight and fat loss and alleviated depression with some improvement in the [quality of life]".

  10. Intermittent versus daily calorie restriction: which diet regimen is more effective for weight loss? In 2011, this study found that intermittent and daily calorie restriction "are equally as effective in decreasing body weight and fat mass, although intermittent [calorie restriction] may be more effective for the retention of lean mass".

  11. Prolonged fasting as a method of mood enhancement in chronic pain syndromes: a review of clinical evidence and mechanisms. In 2010, this study observed that fasting "is efficacious in the treatment of rheumatic diseases and chronic pain syndromes. Here, fasting is frequently accompanied by increased alertness and mood enhancement".

  12. Caloric restriction improves memory in elderly humans. In 2009, this study found "beneficial effects of caloric restriction on memory performance in healthy elderly subjects".

  13. Effect of calorie restriction with or without exercise on body composition and fat distribution. In 2007, this study found that "exercise plays an equivalent role to [calorie restriction] in terms of energy balance; however, it can also improve aerobic fitness, which has other important cardiovascular and metabolic implications".

  14. Improvements in glucose tolerance and insulin action induced by increasing energy expenditure or decreasing energy intake: a randomized controlled trial. In 2006, this study found that "weight loss induced by exercise training or calorie restriction improves glucose tolerance and insulin action in nonobese, healthy, middle-aged men and women. However, it does not appear that exercise training-induced weight loss results in greater improvements than those that result from calorie restriction alone".

  15. Effect of 6-month calorie restriction on biomarkers of longevity, metabolic adaptation, and oxidative stress in overweight individuals: a randomized controlled trial. In 2006, this study found that "2 biomarkers of longevity (fasting insulin level and body temperature) are decreased by prolonged calorie restriction in humans and support the theory that metabolic rate is reduced beyond the level expected from reduced metabolic body mass".

  16. Seizures decrease rapidly after fasting: preliminary studies of the ketogenic diet. In 1999, this study found that "seizures decreased in these children by more than 50% immediately".

Use nootropics to aid in beating fasting fogginess

Even with the myriad brain and body benefits that fasting brings, dealing with short term moodiness and brain fog on your fasting days can be challenging. If you’re working out hard, wrangling children, or trying to push through a 12-hour workday, your fast days might be a greater source of pain than benefit.

A positive daily regime

If temporary stress and depression associated with fasting reduce the overall positive impacts of the practice for you, consider adding nootropics to your daily regimen to nix the fasting related stress and fog and get back to your life. Nootropics can fill the gaps and give you the energy you need to work through your fasting days without adding extra calories back into your routine.

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