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Johns Hopkins: Fasting for Health

Fasting is the practice of abstaining from or reducing food intake for a set period of time. It is a common practice in many cultures and religions and has gained popularity for its potential health benefits. Fasting can involve different methods, such as intermittent fasting, water fasting, alternate-day fasting, or time-restricted eating. While fasting can have potential health benefits, it may not be appropriate for everyone, and it's recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any fasting regimen.

Popular Fasting Techniques

  1. Intermittent fasting is a popular fasting technique that involves alternating periods of fasting and eating. One common method is the 16/8 method, which involves fasting for 16 hours and eating within an 8-hour window each day. This can be achieved by skipping breakfast or dinner, or by eating smaller meals throughout the day.

  2. Water fasting involves abstaining from all food and only drinking water for a set period of time, usually ranging from 24 hours to several days or even weeks. This type of fasting is often done for its detoxifying and healing benefits, but it can be challenging and should only be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

  3. Alternate-day fasting involves fasting every other day, with the non-fasting days being normal eating days. This type of fasting can be challenging for some individuals, but it can be an effective way to reduce calorie intake and promote weight loss.

  4. Time-restricted eating involves limiting food intake to a certain time window each day, such as eating only during an 8-hour period and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. This can be an easier fasting technique for some individuals, as it allows for regular eating habits while still providing some of the benefits of fasting.

Benefits of Fasting

  1. Weight loss: Fasting can help you lose weight by reducing calorie intake and increasing fat burning.

  2. Improved insulin sensitivity: Fasting can improve insulin sensitivity, which can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.

  3. Reduced inflammation: Fasting can reduce inflammation in the body, which can lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease.

  4. Improved heart health: Fasting can improve heart health by lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol levels, and improving blood sugar control.

  5. Increased longevity: Fasting has been shown to increase lifespan in some animal studies, although more research is needed to determine if this is true in humans.

  6. Improved brain function: Fasting can improve brain function and protect against age-related cognitive decline.

  7. Reduced oxidative stress: Fasting can reduce oxidative stress, which can damage cells and contribute to aging and disease.

  8. Improved immune function: Fasting can boost immune function by reducing inflammation and increasing the production of white blood cells.

  9. Reduced risk of cancer: Fasting may reduce the risk of cancer by promoting cellular repair and reducing the growth of cancer cells.

  10. Spiritual and mental benefits: Fasting can have spiritual and mental benefits by promoting self-discipline, mindfulness, and gratitude.


  1. Mattson, M. P., Longo, V. D., & Harvie, M. (2017). Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes. Ageing research reviews, 39, 46-58.

  2. Anton, S. D., Moehl, K., Donahoo, W. T., Marosi, K., Lee, S. A., Mainous, A. G., ... & Mattson, M. P. (2018). Flipping the Metabolic Switch: Understanding and Applying the Health Benefits of Fasting. Obesity, 26(2), 254-268.

  3. Harvie, M., & Howell, A. (2017). Potential benefits and harms of intermittent energy restriction and intermittent fasting amongst obese, overweight and normal weight subjects—a narrative review of human and animal evidence. Behavioral Sciences, 7(4), 34.


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