Cutting calories may do more than bring down the numbers on the scale—it might also mean more birthdays. Research has long proven that intermittent fasting is highly beneficial to our health, and more and more studies are backing up the claim. Known as caloric restriction, animal studies show that there are a great many benefits of fasting, including a longer life.

One of the earliest studies about fasting came about during World War II. The Minnesota Semi-Starvation Experiment was done to help alleviate fear associated with low food supplies during wartime. Subjects reduced their caloric intake by 40% for six months. Unfortunately, the food they did consume was not nutritionally sound, and many of the men in the study suffered from malnutrition. New animal studies have been devised to mimic the low-calorie intake with a higher concentration of nutrients to prevent malnutrition and evaluate overall health improvement. And what they found was that such restricted diets can not only extend the lifespan, but also hinder the development of chronic diseases. They also help reduce inflammation, balance blood sugar, and slow muscle loss.

What is it about fasting that helps our bodies work better? Physicians aren’t completely sure, but it may have to do with overall better eating habits when not fasting—fasting on a regular basis can benefit your metabolism and help curb bad cholesterol, both of which lead to improved heart-health.

But there are dangers to fasting, and if it’s not done properly, it can do you more harm than good. Some people may feel that the time after a fast is a free-for-all, a time for ‘making up’ for lost calories by cramming in as much food as they want. This, in fact, is binging behavior, which is enormously unhealthy. Another danger is the overall physical weakness that comes with a fast. When partaking in a routine fast, things such as lowered blood sugar must be taken into consideration—hunger can cause weakness and lightheadedness which may then lead to falls.

Another consideration is medication. Many people do not do well taking MEDs on an empty stomach, so a full fast might be difficult to achieve without the risk of nausea. It’s also extremely important to stay fully hydrated while you’re cutting calories.

If you think fasting is a good option for you, speak to your doctor about your plans. The health care provider will be able to evaluate the risk factors and determine what, if any, fasting schedule will work. There are many types of fasts – some go full stop on calories for a period, while others simply reduce the amount of food you take in during a given period. Some diets have a set ‘time’ for eating, with large chunks of the day designated as fasting hours. There are options for everyone, and if reduced calories are a potential way to improve health, it’s always best to get your doctor into the loop so you can reap the benefits without the risks.

New Study Says Fasting May Increase Longevity and Promote Healthy Immune System