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Q: What are the benefits, if any, of fasting?
A:Instead of eating three square meals a day, an eating schedule that involves "intermittent fasting" could help fight not just obesity but many related diseases of modern life, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's. More and more research shows that intermittent fasting could have benefits.
Ancient hunter-gatherers often ate only intermittently, the researchers noted. This suggests that the ability to function at a high level both physically and mentally during extended periods without food may have been crucial in human evolution, and that the human body may have adapted to perform at its best with intermittent fasting.
Such intermittent fasting could consist of eating 500 calories or less either two days each week, or every other day, or not eating breakfast and lunch several days each week, the researchers said.
Prior research suggests that in animals, intermittent fasting can fend off or even reverse such illnesses as diabetes, heart disease and neurodegenerative disorders. Animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting provides these benefits by allowing the body to respond better to stress that might otherwise damage it. For example, fasting could starve tumors, reduce inflammation, or improve the removal of damaged molecules and other components of cells, the researchers said.
It may be challenging for people to fast intermittently, instead of eating three meals every day. Eating breakfast is often promoted as a weight-control aid, but recent evidence has suggested it might not be, the researchers said.