How intermittent fasting keeps diabetes, heart disease and cancer away

When you read about the benefits of intermittent fasting, they sound almost too good to be true…

It can help you lose weight and belly fat. It can slow aging. It can reduce your risk of serious diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s.

How exactly can the simple act of skipping some meals have so many benefits?

Well, there are a lot of theories why intermittent fasting works. But the latest evidence shows that the answer probably comes down to one organ — your liver.

Intermittent fasting triggers liver changes that lower your risk for disease

A new study from researchers at the University of Sydney shows that intermittent fasting acts on the liver in a way that helps prevent disease.

In the study, researchers put mice on an “every other day” fasting regimen and took a closer look at their livers. They found that fasting inhibits a certain liver protein known as HNF4-(alpha). This particular protein is like a “master regulator” of metabolic processes… which may be why inhibiting this protein led to several remarkable changes in mice…

It reduced inflammation, improved fat metabolism, and improved blood sugar levels. All of these changes may explain why fasting can prevent metabolic disease, and as a result, a whole bunch of other diseases…

You see, metabolic diseases like diabetes or prediabetes put you at risk for other diseases like heart disease and cancer. But by stamping out three factors that contribute to metabolic disease — inflammation, fat metabolism, and blood sugar control — intermittent fasting can prevent you from going down that dangerous road.

And just so you know, this is far from the only study showing that intermittent fasting has a beneficial impact on metabolic health. Other studies show it can decrease pancreatic fat, increase insulin sensitivity and improve blood sugar uptake, among other things.

One effective form of intermittent fasting: Alternate-day

There are a lot of different ways to approach intermittent fasting. In this study, researchers had mice eat no food every other day. And if you’re up for it, this is an approach you can try.

The basic gist of it is this…

Eat anything you want one day and nothing at all the next.

I know the idea of eating nothing sounds pretty extreme if you’re not used to fasting. And the truth is, it’s not for everybody. If you do decide to try it, you should know that water, unsweetened coffee and tea are totally on the table during fasting days.

You could also try a modified alternate-day fast schedule if cutting out all food sounds too extreme. That involves eating 500 calories on fast days. And there’s evidence that doing this is pretty much just as effective as doing a full fast every other day.

Another great option is the fast-mimicking diet.

Research shows that a lot of people find alternate day fasting easier than daily calorie restriction. Probably, because every other day, they’re allowed to indulge in the foods they love. So, if you struggle to stick to a traditional diet, alternate-day fasting may be just the thing for you.

Alternate day fasting is safe for most people, but check in with your doctor before you start, just in case. Once you get going, don’t be surprised if you see dramatic changes in your weight and/or health. People often do!

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  1. How intermittent fasting changes liver enzymes and helps prevent disease — MedicalXpress
  2. Multi-omics Analysis of the Intermittent Fasting Response in Mice Identifies an Unexpected Role for HNF4α — Cell Reports
  3. 10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting — Healthline
  4. More than weight loss: Intermittent fasting’s health benefits unveiled — The Sydney Morning Herald
  5. Alternate-Day Fasting: A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide — Healthline
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and