Benefits of Fasting, Especially Intermittent Fasting

Fasting has long historical roots dating back and found in ancient religious text, however recent medical advice around the subject has been mixed. 

Some say that the costs outweigh the benefits so it should be avoided, while recent research has indicated that varying Intermittent Fasting (IF) schedules can significantly address obesity.. , prevent type 2 diabetes (Barnosky et al., 2014), and is commonly found to be a weight loss tool (Johnstone, 2015).

This is the first time in our human evolutionary history that we (some) have access to a consistent supply of food. Our ancestors probably had many hungry evenings in which no one in the clan had caught game or they had to ration their minimal supply of food as some still face today. 

Intermittent Fasting

As of late the conversation has revolved around the specific fasting benefits of IF. In particular, IF has been found as a great way to address obesity (Rudman et al., 1990) and generally support the one’s overall health. 

It is highly recommended that a IF schedule be followed faithfully. For example, if someone decides to start with a drastic fasting regimen or schedule, they run the risk of regaining more weight than that which was lost in the initial fasting phase. 

Common schedules can be fasting for 16hrs or 24hrs twice a week, or twice a week consuming significantly less calories, say 500 – 600 calories. An additional option is sticking to a relatively strict window of eating opportunities, such as eating a light breakfast and then only eating from 1-9pm.  

Fertility 

Before we go much further it is worth noting for our fertility patients that are pursuing healthy fertility and getting pregnant, that fasting might not be the right choice for you, though it might be in the immediate future. 

Fasting will not help immediate chances of pregnancy, however an initial significantly needed weight loss via fasting may help future efforts to get pregnant.  

Fasting is not recommended and can reduce the probability of ovulation since your body indicates to your hormonal system that it is under threat and therefore not safe conditions in which to get pregnant. However, if your weight is a fact in your ability to get pregnant then IF may be something to pursue before you decide to start trying to conceive. 

Evidence

The incredible benefits also include reducing inflammation, reversing the damage of oxidation, increases the protection of cells, and optimizes your metabolism (Longo & Mattson, 2014), and cellular repair  

For example, it has been found that fasting encourages autophagy, including neural autophagy, which is the process in which the body cleanses itself of dysfunctional proteins that reside within cells (Longo & Mattson, 2014). In fact, studies have indicated that “sporadic fasting might represent a simple, safe and inexpensive means to promote this potentially therapeutic neuronal response” (Alirezaei et al., 2010). 

Additionally, there are indications that fasting can lead to disease and cancer prevention (Zhu et al., 2013), and prevention of neurodegenerative disorders, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases (Martin, Mattson, & Maudsley, 2006). 

Recommendations

We encourage patients to consider their own circumstances and reasons for choosing fasting or a form of IF. While the research has very promising findings, it is not necessarily for everyone and should not be taken to the extreme. 

We would love to hear your thoughts on a visit with us and we can advise on whether or not this is something you might want to try. 

 

References

Alirezaei, M., Kemball, C. C., Flynn, C. T., Wood, M. R., Whitton, J. L., & Kiosses, W. B. (2010). Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy. Autophagy, 6(6), 702-710.

Barnosky, A. R., Hoddy, K. K., Unterman, T. G., & Varady, K. A. (2014). Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings. Translational Research, 164(4), 302-311.

Johnstone, A. (2015). Fasting for weight loss: an effective strategy or latest dieting trend?. International Journal of Obesity, 39(5), 727.

Martin, B., Mattson, M. P., & Maudsley, S. (2006). Caloric restriction and intermittent fasting: two potential diets for successful brain aging. Ageing research reviews, 5(3), 332-353.

Longo, Valter D., and Mark P. Mattson. “Fasting: molecular mechanisms and clinical applications.” Cell metabolism 19.2 (2014): 181-192.

Rudman, D., Feller, A. G., Nagraj, H. S., Gergans, G. A., Lalitha, P. Y., Goldberg, A. F., … & Mattson, D. E. (1990). Effects of human growth hormone in men over 60 years old. New England Journal of Medicine, 323(1), 1-6.

Zhu, Y., Yan, Y., Gius, D. R., & Vassilopoulos, A. (2013). Metabolic regulation of Sirtuins upon fasting and the implication for cancer. Current opinion in oncology, 25(6), 630.