From a New England Journal of Medicine online release:
In humans, intermittent-fasting interventions ameliorate obesity, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and inflammation. Intermittent fasting seems to confer health benefits to a greater extent than can be attributed just to a reduction in caloric intake.
Evidence is accumulating that eating in a 6-hour period and fasting for 18 hours can trigger a metabolic switch from glucose-based to ketone-based energy, with increased stress resistance, increased longevity, and a decreased incidence of diseases, including cancer and obesity.
Preclinical studies and clinical trials have shown that intermittent fasting has broad-spectrum benefits for many health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, cancers, and neurologic disorders. Animal models show that intermittent fasting improves health throughout the life span, whereas clinical studies have mainly involved relatively short-term interventions, over a period of months.
How much of the benefit of intermittent fasting is due to metabolic switching and how much is due to weight loss? Many studies have indicated that several of the benefits of intermittent fasting are dissociated from its effects on weight loss. These benefits include improvements in glucose regulation, blood pressure, and heart rate; the efficacy of endurance training; and abdominal fat loss.