What we eat and how we eat have profound and powerful effects on our bodies. How could they not? There are numerous example of this. When implemented properly and with the appropriate people, gluten free or dairy free diets, elemental diets, and fasting protocols offer incredible benefits to health and well-being.
In regard to fasting, it may be helpful to begin by forgetting everything you might think or might have been told about fasting. Short periods of fasting overnight and through part of the day can be life changing – for the better! Even longer duration fasts of days or weeks are extremely beneficial, but these are only implemented under proper medical supervision and are not what we are referring to here.
Intermittent fasting is a simple and maintainable habit that can dramatically improve well-being, and so much more! It has the ability to invigorate our metabolism to efficiently burn fat as fuel, balance insulin and blood sugar, increase energy and improve mental clarity.
Practicing intermittent fasting is simply strategically timing WHEN we eat through the day. There are different ways to practice intermittent fasting, but the most straightforward method defines a window of time through the day in which we fast, and a window of time in which we eat. The timing and duration and duration of the fasting phase may vary but an example may include a 16 hour overnight fast with an eight-hour window in which we eat.
Common Methods of Intermittent Fasting
The 16:8 method of Intermittent Fasting is our preferred approach, in which one eats within an eight hour window and fasts through the remaining 16 hours (see the diagram below). Another approach is the 24 hour fast (dinner to dinner), twice per week, while eating regularly the other five days. While not truly fasting, the 5:2 method restricts calories to 25% of normal for two complete days of the week, while eating regularly for the other five.
The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Like many other dietary interventions, fasting should be utilized more frequently in the practice of medicine. Despite the incredible benefits and patient outcomes, other treatments are typically recommended. The unintended effect can be a downplaying of the impact our diet and lifestyles have on our well-being.
Fortunately, research into the benefits of Intermittent Fasting is growing. What is clear thus far includes:
1.Weight – Intermittent Fasting has a greater effect on overweight and obesity than caloric restriction.
– Caloric restriction slows metabolism, while Intermittent fasting boosts metabolism
– Burn fat while gaining muscle
– Excess visceral fat is burnt (this is the dangerous fat surrounding our organs that contributes to insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease, and inflammation)
2.Mental Function and Energy
– Improves mental clarity, balances mood, and may improve anxiety and depression
– Supports healthy aging of the brain
3.Blood sugar regulation improves with Intermittent Fasting (even in diabetes, though medical supervision is necessary).
4.Reduction in inflammation and oxidative stress – both contribute to accelerated aging
Quite a lot of research exists with intermittent fasting. Below are a few impressive highlights.
– Breast cancer recurrence significantly decreases in women fasting for more than 13 hours overnight (1)
– Blood sugar regulation, as measured by HbA1c is improved in women fasting 13 hours or longer. (1) Another paper reviewing the effect of Intermittent Fasting on insulin dependent diabetic patients shows remarkable benefits including substantial weight loss and no longer requiring insulin. (2)
– In asthma, alternate day fasting significantly improved control of asthma and quality of life. (3)
– The physiological changes that occur with Intermittent Fasting are becoming more clearly understood as well. A recent publication demonstrated many more positive metabolic changes with fasting than had previously been imagined. (4)
(1)Prolonged Nightly Fasting and Breast Cancer Prognosis.JAMA Oncol. 2016 Aug 1;2(8):1049-55.
(2)Therapeutic use of intermittent fasting for people with type 2 diabetes as an alternative to insulin. BMJ Case Rep. 2018; 2018: bcr2017221854.Published online 2018 Oct 9.
(3)Alternate day calorie restriction improves clinical findings and reduces markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in overweight adults with moderate asthma. Free Radic Biol Med. 2007 Mar 1;42(5):665-74.
(4)Diverse metabolic reactions activated during 58-hr fasting are revealed by non-targeted metabolomic analysis of human blood. Scientific Reports volume9, Article number: 854 (2019)
~ Dr. Colin