Fasting has been a “thing” for thousands of years, perhaps most notably in all of the religious and spiritual traditions. It’s only recently, however, that it has gone mainstream, with many people fasting for periods of time in an attempt to lose weight, to improve high blood pressure or high cholesterol and to increase lifespan—or all of the above.
This is not to say that people are walking around not eating for weeks on end. (That is clearly not healthy.) Many try intermittent fasting (also known as the 5:2), a practice in which you eat normally for the majority of the week, but drop your calorie intake for two non-consecutive days. On the fast days, the recommendation is that men would consume 600 calories and women, 500. And while 500 calories is not 0 calories, I decided to look into the studies on the subject before giving up my meals. Here’s what I found.
Fasting may contribute to longevity. Fasting for regular periods can help protect the brain against degenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other brain-related ailments. Researchers at the National Institute of Aging in Baltimore found evidence that drastically cutting food intake for just one or two days a week could protect the brain from the aforementioned conditions.
..and promote overall body health. Intermittent fasting may also foster cell growth and repair, as a result of insulin levels dropping.
… and, yes, encourage weight loss. Fasting can increase the body’s metabolic rate by 3.4 – 14% which is great for burning calories.
…and lessens the side effects of diabetes. People suffering type 2 diabetes have also seen dramatic results with reductions in fasting blood sugar and fasting insulin. (Interestingly though, the best results came from the male subjects, the results weren’t so great in females.)
…and reduce inflammation. Inflammation and oxidative stress in the body are two factors largely prominent in aging, and can be attributed to many chronic illnesses and heart conditions. Studies have determined that fasting can reduce all of these factors which is great news for all of us.
Overall? While some might argue that we could get similar results by cutting down what we eat on a daily basis (as opposed to “starving” ourselves for two days out of seven), research does support the notion that there are advantages for both our physical and spiritual bodies by skipping a meal or two in a controlled manner.
So: What do you think? Will you try intermittent fasting ?
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