Intermittent fasting is more than a weight loss tool. How it can boost the immune system & more (2024)

Intermittent fasting is more than a weight loss tool. How it can boost the immune system & more (1)

I am sold on the benefits of intermittent fasting and I have written about this topic several times in the recent past. Each time I write I get a huge response from readers, some negative, but most are overwhelmingly positive. I have engaged in intermittent fasting for more than the past two years and have used my body as a test platform, manipulating the variables this way and that to see the effects.

In the process, I have learned a great deal I would like to share. However, before proceeding, let me again emphasize that you are either “truly” fasted or you are not. Truly means consuming nothing other than black coffee, unsweetened tea, or water. Break the fast and all beneficial effects are lost immediately.

Although intermittent fasting is by far the most effective fat loss program I have ever seen, initially I was not attracted to the practice as a weight management tool. Instead, I was attracted to the potential positive effects of factors tied to the aging process, a keen issue for me as I approach age 77. Three factors stand out, including a boost in human growth hormone, increased autophagy, and an enhanced immune system.

Let me add that new information regarding intermittent fasting is coming fast as it gains popularity, but this can trigger confusion and misinterpretation. At present, evidence indicates very positive outcomes when it comes to aging as discussed below, plus weight management, but more evidence is needed before rock-solid conclusions can be made.

What is the human growth hormone?

Intermittent fasting is more than a weight loss tool. How it can boost the immune system & more (2)

The human growth hormone declines with age and starting as early as the third decade of life, there is a decline in HGH secretion by the pituitary gland of 15% per decade, leading to a very low level late in life. This helps explain some of the lost muscle mass and increased body fat with aging, especially increased fat around the midsection in both men and women. There also is the loss of vigor.

But not everyone loses HGH at the same rate as several other factors besides aging contribute to the decline. Lack of exercise, a lousy diet and poor sleep play key roles, plus a decreased testosterone production in men and decreased estrogen in women.

So, is it a good idea to undergo HGH therapy? Unless your doctor believes it is necessary for some medical reason, it’s best not to take HGH injections because there can be unhealthy side effects and an increased risk of some medical conditions. In other words, medical experts tend to be cautious regarding artificial means of increasing HGH to combat aging. What’s more, commercial supplements that claim to boost HGH are not helpful. On the other hand, there are several things you can do to increase HGH naturally, which is safe and effective.

How can I naturally increase human growth hormone as I age?

Intermittent fasting is more than a weight loss tool. How it can boost the immune system & more (3)

First and foremost, in order of recognized importance, is the benefit of losing body fat, especially around the middle because the more belly fat you have the lower your production of HGH.

Second, studies on fasting are very promising. While fasting itself is helpful, it’s also important to point out that intermittent fastinf reduces belly fat which helps boost HGH. In addition, intermittent fasting keeps insulin levels low because you are not bombarding your body with food, and especially sugar, every few hours. This is a good thing because an increase in insulin caused by a surge of sugar coming into the bloodstream from the digestive tract can reduce the release of HGH.

Third, exercise, and especially high-intensity exercise, has been shown to increase levels of HGH. Fourth, since HGH is released during sleep, getting a good night’s sleep of at least seven to eight hours is critical.

And fifth, follow a nutritious well-balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit and high-quality protein.

What is autophagy and how can I increase it?

Autophagy is how the body recycles, breaking down older ineffective cells and salvaging pieces that are then used to produce new and more productive cells. This is an especially important factor when it comes to aging because as you get older, autophagy decreases which can lead to more dysfunctional cells living longer.

Consider that cells in the body have a particular lifespan. For example, red blood cells live approximately 120 days, and as they approach the limits of their lifespan, their effectiveness is reduced. If older and less effective red blood cells can be identified sooner and dealt with, the overall productivity of the system is improved.

To date, most studies on fasting and autophagy have been performed on animals and suggest that autophagy begins after about 24 hours of fasting. More recently, with the growing popularity of intermittent fasting, there is evidence that the process may be triggered at 18 hours, suggesting that an 18-hour fast and a 6-hour eating window may be effective in gaining cited benefits.

Can intermittent fasting boost my immune system?

Intermittent fasting is more than a weight loss tool. How it can boost the immune system & more (4)

Research conducted several years ago reported that a three-day fast can essentially “reset” the immune system. In other words, fasting helped turn on the production of new and more powerful immune cells. Part of this could be due to enhanced autophagy, in general, plus increased activity in the gut where some immune cells are produced. It makes sense that if you are not bombarding your gut all day long with food, charging it to constantly digest and assimilate nutrients, it can turn its attention to other duties, like making more immune cells.

While this is great news, having to fast three full days to get these immune system effects is not, because such a prolonged fast is way out of reach for most folks. New research on intermittent fasting is encouraging because much of the effects of a three-day fast on the immune system are found with much shorter periods like the 16 to 20 hours of fasting typically associated with intermittent fasting.

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Reach Bryant Stamford, a professor of kinesiology and integrative physiology at Hanover College, at

Intermittent fasting is more than a weight loss tool. How it can boost the immune system & more (2024)
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