What’s Intermittent Fasting | Intermittent Fasting Benefits | How Intermittent Fasting Works | What is Cholesterol | Intermittent Fasting and Cholesterol | Research Studies | What You Should Be Eating
Intermittent fasting is very popular because of its ability to decrease weight, lower high blood pressure, bring down blood sugar levels, reduce body inflammation, and much more.
However, you may want to ask, “ will intermittent fasting lower cholesterol?” You may also be concerned that Intermittent fasting will raise your cholesterol. Not to worry, this article has all the answers backed up by science.
What’s Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a diet protocol that stands out with fasting for a certain number of hours every day, followed by an eating window where you eat normally. You can go about IF in numerous ways; however, IF typically involves abstinence from calories for a certain time, followed by several hours where you can eat anything before the next fasting window.
One typical example of intermittent fasting is the 16/8 IF- here, you practice 16 hours of fasting followed by the 8-hour eating window in 24 hours. Another way you can do intermittent fasting is the 5/2 method. You normally eat for five days of the week and restrict your calorie intake to 500-600 calories on the remaining two non-consecutive days.
What Are The Benefits We Can Get From Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting can be much easier to follow and maintain than other types of dieting. With IF, you can relegate the non-eating hours to your sleep time, and adding a few extra hours after waking up will fulfill your diet’s requirements. This is why some people see IF as much less restricting.
However, this by no means suggests that you can binge eat processed and unhealthy foods in your eating window. To get the best results from Intermittent fasting, you will have to eat a well-balanced diet.
There are a lot of benefits attached to intermittent fasting; take a look.
- Stress resistance
- Improved functioning of organs and cells
- Cognitive function improvement
- Improved insulin sensitivity & Insulin Resistance thus balancing insulin levels
- Cardiovascular health improvement
- Reduction in inflammation
- Oxidative stress reduction and better antioxidant effects
- Slowing down of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease
Again, the follow on effects of Intermittent fasting could potentially have a beneficial effect on other spheres of your health. As an example, IF could potentially improve arthritis and asthma.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
If we compare our modern eating patterns to prehistoric times, our ancestors did not have a specific meal time and ate only when food was available. At other times they would starve. So to remain alive in these starvation periods, our bodies have built-in mechanisms.
If you do not eat for a certain period, your body will use internal energy reserves in a process called metabolic switching. Initially, the body uses glycogen (the stored form of Glucose) stored in the liver for different bodily functions. However, our glycogen stores only last for 2-12 hours. After the glycogen is depleted, your body starts going after the fat to burn for energy. An enzyme called lipase induces the adipose tissues to release small molecules of fat known as triglycerides into the bloodstream.
These triglycerides then travel to the liver, where they are broken down to make ketone bodies, which are the alternative energy source for the body. The switch from glycogen to ketones is the underlying mechanism of intermittent fasting. Although we do not fully understand it, the change from glycogen metabolism to ketone metabolism creates several changes in the body. One of these effects is reduced total cholesterol levels, low-density lipoproteins, and triglycerides.
What is Cholesterol?
The liver produces cholesterol, which is a lipid. Despite the bad tidings associated with it, cholesterol performs several critical functions for the body. This includes vitamin and hormone production and maintenance of the cell wall structure.
The liver and other body organs produce the majority of cholesterol (80%). The remaining 25% is obtained through our diet, mainly from animal products like lamb, beef, and poultry and dairy products like butter, cheese, and milk.
Now, cholesterol is fat, meaning that it cannot travel through the bloodstream on its own. It requires other molecules, called lipoproteins, to carry it all around the body. There are many lipoproteins, but we are interested in high-density lipoproteins (HDL cholesterol) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL).
HDL is the good guy because it removes cholesterol from the blood, taking it to the liver, where it can be processed and removed from the body. On the other hand, LDL is the bad guy, carrying cholesterol all through the blood. LDL has the propensity to accumulate inside the walls of blood cells.
Too much LDL in your body can cause a buildup of plaque-like formations in blood vessels, making the blood vessels stiffen and narrow. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. If this happens, the blood flow encounters roadblocks and reduces the blood supply to the tissues. Eventually, LDL could have a bad outcome, like causing blood clots, strokes, and heart attacks.
Intermittent Fasting and How it Affects Cholesterol Levels
Because of the metabolic switch from glycogen to ketones, intermittent fasting affects your cholesterol levels. When you practice intermittent fasting, your body will use lipids as fuel instead of storing them. The lipids will travel out of the cells, go into the bloodstream, and enter the liver to be transformed into ketones.
The direction of travel of the lipids will change the amount and type of cholesterol required to make the transfer possible. This will, in turn, increase the HDL amount and decrease the LDL amount. This will affect a favorable change in your particular cholesterol profile and reduce risks of dyslipidemia which is a significant contributor to cardiovascular disease.
Studies have shown that the ketone-making process in the liver could lead to the expression of particular genes responsible for increased fatty acid oxidation and apolipoprotein Type A production (the main protein component of HDL), which leads to a higher HDL level. Again, apolipoprotein B (the main protein component of LDL) will decrease with intermittent fasting. This reduces liver triglyceride levels as well as LDL levels.
There’s another way in which IF can affect your cholesterol levels. This is due to weight loss. Because IF is a time-restricted eating diet, you will consume less food, which reduces your energy consumption. The ketones need a lot of energy to be produced, which increases your energy expenditure.
One of the modifiable risk factors for dyslipidemia is being overweight, and if you reduce your body weight, there is a good chance that your cholesterol levels will improve too. So will intermittent fasting lower cholesterol? Yes, it very well may.
Here’s What Research Says
A study looking into the link between cholesterol levels and IF showed positive results. On average, with the study participants there was a 6–21% decrease in total cholesterol, LDL was reduced by 7–32%, and triglycerides decreased by 16–42%.
Another study looked at how IF and exercise affected cholesterol levels for 12 weeks. It was found that alternate-day fasting decreased LDL levels by 10% and triglycerides by 17%.
The majority of studies on IF and cholesterol levels were conducted on overweight or obese people. However, one study investigated the result of alternate-day fasting in both overweight and normal individuals. While there was an average weight loss of 5 kg, there was also a 20% reduction in triglyceride levels. However, LDL, HDL, and total cholesterol levels remained unchanged.
Recently, a systemic review and a meta-analysis of 33 studies concluded that intermittent fasting with energy-restricted diets could noticeably and significantly improve LDL, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels but have no real effect on HDL levels.
Here’s What You Should Be Eating
With intermittent fasting, you must ensure that you consume all the vitamins and nutrients vital to keeping your body running. This includes a wide variety of foods that will satisfy your dietary requirements of proteins, fats, and carbs, which include fiber. Also check out this 16/8 Fasting Meal plan.
Foods To Eat
- Vegetables and fruits, including beans
- Whole grains
- Unsaturated fats like olive oil, nuts, and avocado
Foods To Skip
- Food that is high in cholesterol or saturated fats
- Food and drinks high in sugar and simple carbs
- Trans fats
- Processed food
Intermittent fasting is a dietary pattern in which you limit the amount of calories you consume each day using caloric restriction at certain times/hours. There are no specific food restrictions during eating periods, but it’s recommended to have a nutritious and varied healthy diet. Be sure to consume healthy fats, as well as making healthy lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, watching your food intake, eat organic un-processed foods, and do not smoke or drink alcohol.
Studies have shown intermittent fasting has several health benefits, including an improved lipid profile, with lower triglyceride and LDL Cholesterol (Low-Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol levels. As the body shifts from relying on glucose to ketones for energy during your intermittent fasting period, it promotes fat burning, leading to weight loss and reducing the risk of dyslipidemia. Fasting will help improve your heart health, lower high blood cholesterol, thus lowering your risk of heart disease and heart attack.
While intermittent fasting has numerous benefits, it might not be suitable for everyone. Always discuss this with your doctor before starting.
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