Welcome to Healthy Challenge: Week 6!
As a Muslim, I’ve long been aware of the spiritual and psychological benefits of fasting. It strengthens your willpower and patience, cultivates empathy for others less fortunate, and brings you closer to Allah.
But did you know that thousands of studies have been done on “intermittent fasting” and have shown that it has amazing health benefits as well?
This week’s challenge is to try to include fasting as part of your regular routine.
If you are Muslim, this might be in the form of the Sunnah fasts each Monday and Thursday. If you’d like to try fasting purely for its health benefits alone, you can simply restrict your eating to any eight- or nine-hour window of the day that you choose (11am-7pm, for example).
Here are some of the scientifically proven health benefits of fasting:
FASTING CAN BE A SAFE AND EFFECTIVE WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT.
It has been shown to be a more effective way to lose weight than dieting.
FASTING IMPROVES HEART HEALTH.
FASTING IMPROVES BRAIN FUNCTION.
Fasting has shown to improve brain function, because it increases the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF.) BDNF activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons. This protein also protects your brain cells from diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.¹
It DECREASES BLOOD LEVELS OF INSULIN.¹
Insulin is a hormone which is released by our pancreas. After we eat, the amount of sugar in our blood rises and our pancreas releases insulin into our bloodstream. Insulin then signals cells to absorb sugar from the bloodstream. People who are over-weight or physically inactive can develop insulin resistance. This means that the cells are no longer responsive to the effects of insulin. As a result, the pancreas needs to make more and more insulin in order to help sugar enter the cells. If the pancreas is not able to keep up with the body’s increased need for insulin, sugar will build up in the bloodstream, leading to diabetes and other very serious health disorders.
A high level of insulin in the blood is associated with high blood pressure, blood vessel damage, heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis and even cancer. Studies show that fasting decreases the level of insulin in the blood, while also increasing glucose uptake into cells.²
FASTING INCREASES LEVELS OF HUMAN GROWTH HORMONE.
FASTING INDUCES CELLULAR CLEANSING.
During the state of fasting, your body destroys and recycles old or damaged parts of your cells.¹
A recent study showed that a 3-day fast regenerated the entire immune system!
This can be beneficial for people suffering from diseases such as cancer, asthma, and autoimmune conditions.
Fasting has been shown to inhibit cancer growth and improve the survival of human cancer patients.
FASTING MAY PREVENT ALZHEIMER’S.¹
Fasting can help protect against cognitive decline in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Animal studies have shown that fasting prolongs life span.