Intermittent Fasting: An Enduring Path to Ideal Weight and Better Overall Health

By Dr. Ron Hunninghake, MD

While there has been much discussion about prescriptions for weight loss and better metabolic health, it is worth considering intermittent fasting as a safer and more enduring option that is associated with many progressive health benefits that are based upon improved mitochondrial functioning.

Proper guidance and perseverance is important with intermittent fasting. Though generally recognized as safe, it is best to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any fasting regimen.

Intermittent fasting – “IF” – does require proper preparation and planning. A book such as the 2023 recent release of The Intermittent Fasting Revolution, written by the long time IF researcher Dr. Mark P. Mattson, can be a valuable starting point. Dr. Mattson points to an outstanding array of health benefits well beyond weight loss that include a reduction in blood sugar levels, increased energy, and a general improvement in mood.

It is important to note that IF is best viewed as a long-term (6-12 months) commitment. Start with an IF routine that works for you. This can be as simple as delaying your weekday breakfast by an hour or two. Read and try a few variations. When you find an IF pattern that works for you, then stick with it! In my personal experience with intermittent fasting, I have found that it is NOT just another quick “diet fix” with rapid but only temporary results. It can take longer than most people think to see progress. But when the weight loss comes and the energy enhancement starts to show up, IF readily evolves into an easy lifelong habit.

Intermittent fasting typically involves cycles of fasting and eating within specific time periods, which can vary based on personal needs, schedules, and other variables. The simple target of IF is to work toward an 8-hour “eating window.” The rest of your 24-hour day is devoted to fasting and adequate hydration with electrolytes. There is no calorie counting or specific dietary restriction, although limiting sugar and refined flour along with a robust “whole foods” program will accelerate the benefits and speed of the loss of pounds.

If you’ve kept up with your Health Hunter issues this past year, you will remember that we have discussed mitochondrial health often in 2023. So, it will be of no surprise to you diligent readers that the potential impact of IF on mitochondrial functioning can result in 12 amazing health benefits on top of weight loss.

12 Benefits of Intermittent Fasting


  1. Easy Caloric Restriction:

Intermittent fasting typically involves cycles of fasting and eating within specific time periods.

By restricting the hours during which you eat, IF often leads to a reduction in overall calorie intake. When you consume fewer calories than your body needs, it can result in weight loss.

  1. Improved Insulin Sensitivity:

Intermittent fasting can improve insulin sensitivity.

During fasting periods, insulin levels in the bloodstream decrease, which allows cells to become more receptive to insulin when you do eat. Improved insulin sensitivity may help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

  1. Better Fat Burning:

During fasting, the body switches from using glucose (sugar) as its primary energy source to using stored fat for energy.

This shift in fuel utilization may promote fat loss and contribute to weight management.

  1. Improved Autophagy:

Intermittent fasting may stimulate a process called autophagy, which is the body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells and regenerating new ones.

Autophagy is thought to have various health benefits, including improved cellular function and reduced inflammation.

  1. Enhanced Hormonal Regulation:

IF can influence the secretion of various hormones involved in hunger and appetite regulation.

Ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger, may decrease during fasting, helping reduce feelings of hunger.

Leptin, the hormone that signals fullness, may become more effective.

  1. Faster Metabolic Rate:

Contrary to the belief that fasting slows metabolism, intermittent fasting may help maintain and improve metabolic rate.

Some studies suggest that fasting periods can help preserve lean body mass while promoting fat loss, which is important for overall metabolic health.

  1. Reduced Inflammation:

Chronic inflammation is associated with various health problems, including obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Intermittent fasting may help reduce inflammation markers in the body.

  1. Better Brain Health:

There is emerging evidence that intermittent fasting may have neuroprotective effects and support brain health.

It may stimulate the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein associated with cognitive function and mental health.

  1. Reduced Blood Lipids:

Intermittent fasting may improve lipid profiles by reducing levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.

This can contribute to better cardiovascular health.

  1. Cellular Stress Resistance:

Fasting can induce mild cellular stress, which triggers adaptive responses that enhance the body’s resilience to stress.

This phenomenon is also known as hormesis, where stress induces improved adaptivity and better functioning.

  1. Increased Longevity:

Some studies suggest that IF may result in a longer, healthier lifespan.

This phenomenon also occurs with calorie restriction which is also a result of improved mitochondrial health and cellular function.

Ironically, IF does not necessarily require a reduction in daily calories, though this is often a beneficial “unintended consequence.”

  1. Greater Sense of Well Being:

The composite result of IF is an overall feeling of health and wellness, combined with the satisfaction of restoring one’s weight to a healthier level.

This sense of well-being is often ascribed to longer fasting intervals (such as days or week) but without the loss of muscle mass that prolonged fasting can cause.

Join me for a Lunch & Lecture on January 25 to learn more about the Riordan approach to intermittent fasting. There is more information below, as well as a link to register. My lecture will be available in-person in Wichita or virtually.