Is it a good idea to “starve” yourself just a little bit each day? The evidence suggests that yes, avoiding eating around the clock could have a very beneficial impact on your health and longevity.
What we’re talking about here is generally referred to as intermittent fasting, which involves timing your meals to allow for regular periods of fasting.
It takes about six to eight hours for your body to metabolize your glycogen stores and after that you start to shift to burning fat. However, if you are replenishing your glycogen by eating every eight hours (or sooner), you make it far more difficult for your body to use your fat stores as fuel.
In a new diet book, “The Fast Diet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting”, Dr. Michael Mosley suggests the best way to lose weight is to eat normally for five days a week, and fast for two. On fasting days, he recommends cutting your food down to ¼ of your normal daily calories, or about 600 calories for men and about 500 for women, along with plenty of water and tea.
A recent article in the Washington Post highlighted yet another important health benefit associated with intermittent fasting, namely brain health and protection against dementia. Mark Mattson at the National Institute on Aging told the paper:
“We know from animal models that if we start an intermittent fasting diet at what would be the equivalent of middle age in people, we can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.”
Many studies have evaluated daily intermittent fasting, and the results are compellingly positive. Three major mechanisms by which fasting benefits your body, as it extends lifespan and protects against disease, include:
1. Increased insulin sensitivity and mitochondrial energy efficiency
– Fasting increases insulin sensitivity along with mitochondrial energy efficiency, and thereby retards aging and disease, which are typically associated with loss of insulin sensitivity and declined mitochondrial energy.
2. Reduced oxidative stress
– Fasting decreases the accumulation of oxidative radicals in the cell, and thereby prevents oxidative damage to cellular proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids associated with aging and disease.
3. Increased capacity to resist stress, disease and aging
– Fasting induces a cellular stress response (similar to that induced by exercise) in which cells up-regulate the expression of genes that increase the capacity to cope with stress and resist disease and aging.
One of the mechanisms that makes fasting so effective for weight loss is the fact that it provokes the secretion of human growth hormone (HGH), which is a fat-burning hormone. It also plays an important role in muscle building. Fasting also increases catecholamines, which increases resting energy expenditure, while decreasing insulin levels, which allows stored fat to be burned for fuel. Together, these and other factors will turn you into an effective fat-burning machine.
Hence, if like many tens of millions of people, your goal is to shed excess fat, fasting can be both effective and beneficial for improving many disease markers. The type of fast you choose appears to be less important, so pick whichever one fits your lifestyle, schedule, and temperament the best.
Interestingly, one recent study that included more than 200 individuals, found that fasting increased the participants’ low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL or “bad” cholesterol) and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL, the “good” cholesterol) by 14 percent and 6 percent, respectively. Why would fasting raise total cholesterol? Dr. Benjamin D. Horne, PhD, MPH, director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, and the study’s lead author, offers the following explanation:
“Fasting causes hunger or stress. In response, the body releases more cholesterol, allowing it to utilize fat as a source of fuel, instead of glucose. This decreases the number of fat cells in the body… This is important because the fewer fat cells a body has, the less likely it will experience insulin resistance, or diabetes.”
Intermittent fasting must be accompanied with good nutrition, otherwise it is just starvation. That is NOT recommended.
But hypoglycemics and diabetics beware—there is a proper way to implement fasting, and hypoglycemic and/or diabetics need to be particularly careful in order to not worsen their health. Ditto for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
teamrich.wordpress.com – Intermittent Fasting