The Research Behind Fasting – Courtesy of Dr. Jason Fung

Fasting, a form of restrictive eating, got a lot of attention when many celebrities boasted about using intermittent fasting to maintain a healthy weight. 

person eating an avocado
Photo by Noah Buscher

However, is there science behind this?

Keep reading to find out the answer to questions such as “what is fasting?”, “what are different kinds of fastings?”, “is fasting healthy?”, “is there research behind fasting?” and so much more!

What is Fasting?

Fasting is a state in which a person does not eat for a specified period.

This does not have to be for days on end, it’s not that scary! Think of the word breakfast (breaking your fast).

Therefore, it can refer to the state of a person’s body who has not eaten throughout the night. It can also be the metabolic state you enter into 3 to 5 hours after your last meal.

We enter into fasting states without being aware of it.

The most popular form of fasting, and the least restrictive, is called intermittent fasting (I.F.). This is where you give yourself a window to eat (for example 10 am to 6 pm). and fast the rest of the time.

During a stated state; your body simply uses the stored energy it has to continue to function; energy in adipose tissue (fat) as well as in cells.

Dr. Jason Fung, a leading expert on the subject, debunked starvation mode, metabolism reduction, and muscle loss.

He states that fasting is normal in the body, as our ancestors had to do it during regular periods when food was scarce.

What Are Types of Fasting?

Click here for a complete guide to fasting.

However, here is the gist of the types of fasts:

  • INTERMITTENT FASTING, which involves not consuming food for periods. Most people who do intermittent fasts do it in different ways. For example, a 12/12 fast: This simple fast consists of having dinner at 7 pm and having your breakfast at 7 am, which creates a fasting window of 12 hours per day. You can vary the times too such as a 6/18 fast (18 hours of fasting, 6-hour window to eat).
  • ALTERNATE DAY FAST – It also has several forms, it could be intermittent fasting one day and not the other.
  • PERIODIC FAST, which is usually fasting for 1 day. Very hard, unrecommended for beginners.
  • EXTENDED FAST, which is completely eliminating calories from the diet and consuming only liquids such as natural water (always increase the intake of electrolytes with sea salt) or infusions (teas). Only done with medical supervision.

Is Fasting Right for Me?

Fasting may have great benefits to the body such as 

  • cellular repair
  • metabolic reset
  • fat loss
  • regeneration of tissue
  • extension of lifespan
  • and even protection from neurological issues such as Alzheimer’s

Who Shouldn’t Fast

There are risks involved with fasting, such as:

Always consult your doctor before dietary changes.

People may lose liquid, minerals, and vitamins during a fast, therefore it is important to must stay hydrated, consume nutritious food during eating times, replenish electrolytes, and listen to the body. If your body says do not fast, do not fast.

Individuals with any sort of eating disorder, overeating, undereating, bulimia, anorexia, etc., should not fast.

These cases are unique in the person’s experience with food, and restrictive eating, restrictive diets, etc., may cause issues to reemerge.

Research on Fasting

Much research concludes that there could be great benefits to introducing fasting as part of our routine. 

Dr. Jason Fung is a Canadian nephrologist and is one of the world’s leading experts on intermittent fasting and low-carbohydrate diets, especially for the treatment of people with type 2 diabetes and various diseases. 

His research has shown that fasting does not cause the body to go into starvation mode nor does it lower metabolism. On the contrary, the detoxification, cleaning, and recovery processes of the body are activated. 

This research has contributed to the information on how fasting can reverse chronic illnesses and obesity.

A study on 174 hypertensive people showed that a 10-day fast normalizes blood pressure and oxidative stress in 90% of participants.

There is an increase in growth hormone, which is multiplied by five after 48 hours of fasting. This hormone facilitates fat mobilization, detoxification, weight loss, and mental clarity, among many others.

Clinically, it has been the only proven method of increasing the life expectancy of species. One study found that rats that fasted every other day delayed the rate of aging and lived 83% longer than rats that did not fast. This can be due to a variety of reasons, including the self-repairs that happen in a fasted state.

Fasting can decrease blood sugar levels significantly, increasing growth hormone and reducing insulin resistance. It can also decrease levels of inflammation and may be useful in treating inflammatory conditions, like sclerosis. Fasting is also associated with lowered heart disease and lowered triglycerides.

Cells undergo a process called autophagy during a fasted state. This is a self-cleaning and detox of cells, which allows harmful toxins and the buildup of waste to be removed from the body. Fasting can also improve brain function, potentially due to lowered inflammation.

The Takeaway

While fasting may not be for everyone, there is research to support its benefits.

It should not be done by anyone with an eating disorder and should be approached with caution.

Consult with your doctor first and foremost about any health questions, as this information does not substitute treatment.

Alternatively, if you do not like the idea of fasting, simply work out to improve your body!

Remember, fitness is a journey that starts with a single step!

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