Is Fasting Good For You
Intermittent fasting (IF) is to consistently go without food for longer periods of time than is typical for an average daily diet.
There are many different types, some promote your skipping breakfast or evening meal ; others fast every other day, two days a week, once per week, or even just once per month.
So what happens to your body when you fast?
Fasting accelerates how quickly your body clears out the waste left by dead and damaged cells, this process is called autophagy. Many scientists believe that a failure to remove accumulated cellular debris is a major cause of the chronic diseases which are associated with ageing such as dementia, heart disease and cancer.
Beneficial effects of IF highlighted in both animal and human studies include:
- Reduced cardiovascular disease risk. Reduced cancer risk.
- Potential reduced diabetes risk.
- Protection against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
- Improved cognitive function.
So getting hungry every now and then is clearly a healthy thing to do so long as your calorie intake is high enough to maintain a healthy weight. It is also critical that you drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated when fasting. However IF is not recommended for everyone, particularly children under 18 and pregnant or breast feeding women.
The 5:2 Day Diet
My specific choice for an IF diet is the 5:2 Day Diet which is a clinically proven intermittent diet that not only helps you lose those stubborn unwanted pounds and is very good for you but is easy to follow. You fast on 2 non consecutive days a week, reducing your calorie intake to 650 if you are male and 500 if you are female, meaning that you don’t feel like you have such a huge mountain to climb as normal food consumption is only a few hours away!
You can expect to lose more weight than you would on a standard calorie-controlled diet but as listed above there are many other health benefits associated with this diet, such as a reduced risk of cancer; reduced blood pressure; overall anti-ageing effects; improved well-being and improved mood and energy levels.
The 5:2 diet was also endorsed by Dr Michael Mosley in a BBC Two Horizon Documentary.
Dr Mosley stuck to this diet for five weeks, in which time he lost nearly a stone in weight and his blood markers, like insulin, glucose and cholesterol, improved. Sustaining this, he said, would greatly reduce his risk of contracting age-related diseases like cancer and diabetes.
Intermittent diet research carried out by Genesis the breast cancer prevention charity examined 100 overweight women and found that the women who followed a strict 650 calories a day for just two days a week (they ate what they wanted on the other days) reduced their risk of developing breast cancer by 40%. The researchers found that this 2 day a week caloric restriction almost halved cancer-causing hormones in high risk women.
Do you live longer if you fast?
Studies of fasting in both rodents and humans appear to indicate a connection between calorie restriction and longevity. In one study of overweight men and women, a calorie-restricted diet improved markers of ageing such as insulin levels* and body temperature**
Fasting might also improve longevity by delaying the onset of age-related diseases including Alzheimer’s, heart disease and diabetes.
* It is widely acknowledged that higher insulin levels promote cancer.
**A large study published in 2011 compared the ages and body temperatures of 18,630 people from 20 to 98 years old and the results indicated low body temperature as a bio marker for longevity.