14 Jan Is fasting good for our health?
Fasting is an integral part of many religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. For years there has been a scientific controversy over whether it is beneficial to human health or not, as it entails food deprivation. This kind of deprivation is what repulses many of us from fasting. But whether we believe it or not, food deprivation is a “key” to living longer and better.
A recent US study published in the scientific journal Nature Communications found that a low-calorie diet helps us live longer and healthier lives. In fact, the benefit is greater for the elderly.
The younger we are, the faster and more efficient our metabolism is. One of the main consequences of the natural process of aging, is a “slow” metabolism. But can we rewind the natural process of aging? Fasting can provenly help in this direction. Fasting can regulate digestion and promote healthy bowel function, thus improving metabolism. It has also been scientifically proven that fasting has a positive effect on insulin sensitivity, a mechanism that allows us to better “tolerate” carbohydrates, namely sugar. Furthermore, it allows the human body to use fat as the main source of energy, instead of sugar.
Finally, it helps towards a better hormonal regulation and the feeling of hunger. In short, fasting is like the button that resets an electronic device. In nature, when animals get sick, they stop eating and focus on rest. This is the primary mechanism to reduce internal stress, so as to be their body able to fight infections. We humans are the only living species that seek food, when we are sick, that is, even when we do not need it.
Fasting, namely food moderation/deprivation, is away to improve our immune system, as it can reduce the production of free radicals, regulate inflammatory conditions in the body, prevent the formation of cancer cells and help reduce the risk for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. At the same time, it has been shown to improve brain function and protect brain cells from alterations associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Unfortunately, the way many people fast today is incorrect. Most often, they consume more carbohydrates, which can cause an increase in blood sugar levels and result in the imbalance of the hormones leptin and insulin, thus empowering the feeling of hunger. This phenomenon usually leads to increased food intake and a subsequent gain of body weight. That explains why most people perceive fasting as a negative experience.
However we must keep in mind that when fasting is done correctly, that is, by incorporating plant foods that contain high biological value proteins into our daily diet, it can have only positive effects on our physical and mental health.
Dr. Nikoleta Koini, M.D.
Doctor of Functional, Preventive, Anti-ageing and Restorative Medicine.
Diplomate and Board Certified in Anti-aging, Preventive, Functional and Regenerative Medicine from A4M (American Academy in Antiaging Medicine).
- Fond, G; MacGregor, A; Leboyer, M; Michalsen, A (2013). “Fasting in mood disorders: Neurobiology and effectiveness. A review of the literature”. Psychiatry Research. 209 (3): 253–8. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2012.12.018. PMID 23332541. S2CID 39700065. Archived from the original on 17 June 2018. Retrieved 4 November 2018.
- Anton, Stephen D; Moehl, Keelin; Donahoo, William T; Marosi, Krisztina; Lee, Stephanie A; Mainous, Arch G; Leeuwenburgh, Christiaan; Mattson, Mark P (2017). “Flipping the Metabolic Switch: Understanding and Applying the Health Benefits of Fasting”. Obesity. 26 (2): 254–268. doi:10.1002/oby.22065. PMC 5783752. PMID 29086496.
- Moore, Jimmy; Fung, Jason (2016). The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting. Simon and Schuster. p. 232. ISBN 9781628600018. Archived from the original on 27 December 2019. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
- Johnstone, A (May 2015). “Fasting for weight loss: an effective strategy or latest dieting trend?”. International Journal of Obesity (Review). 39 (5): 727–33. doi:10.1038/ijo.2014.214. PMID 25540982. S2CID 24033290.
- Smith, Peter (2000). “fasting”. A concise encyclopedia of the Baháʼí Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. pp. 157. ISBN 978-1-85168-184-6.
- Randi Fredricks (20 December 2012). Fasting: An Exceptional Human Experience. AuthorHouse. ISBN 978-1-4817-2379-4. Archived from the original on 7 February 2016. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
- Epps, David (20 February 2018). “Facts about fasting”. The Citizen. Archived from the original on 17 March 2018. Retrieved 16 March 2018. In Methodism, fasting is considered one of the “Works of Piety.” The Discipline of the Wesleyan Methodist Church required Methodists to fast on certain days. Historically, Methodist clergy are required to fast on Wednesdays, in remembrance of the betrayal of Christ, and on Fridays, in remembrance of His crucifixion and death.
- Beard, Steve (30 January 2012). “The spiritual discipline of fasting”. Good News Magazine. United Methodist Church.
- McKnight, Scot (2010). Fasting: The Ancient Practices. Thomas Nelson. p. 88. ISBN 9781418576134. John Wesley, in his Journal, wrote on Friday, August 17, 1739, that “many of our society met, as we had appointed, at one in the afternoon and agreed that all members of our society should obey the Church to which we belong by observing ‘all Fridays in the year’ as ‘days of fasting and abstinence.’
- Gentilcore, David (19 November 2015). Food and Health in Early Modern Europe: Diet, Medicine and Society, 1450-1800. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 125. ISBN 9781472528421.
- Johnson, William, The Fasting Movement, Bethesda Books, 2003
- Riley M. Lorimer. “Where Do Fast Offerings Go? – New Era May 2008 – new-era”. churchofjesuschrist.org. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
- Bloomer, Richard J; Mohammad M Kabir; Robert E Canale; John F Trepanowski; Kate E Marshall; Tyler M Farney; Kelley G Hammond (2010). “Effect of a 21-day Daniel Fast on metabolic and cardiovascular disease risk factors in men and women” (PDF). Lipids in Health and Disease. 9: 94. doi:10.1186/1476-511X-9-94. PMC 2941756. PMID 20815907.
- Tarla Dalal. Faraal Foods for fasting days. Sanjay & Co. p. 6. ISBN 978-93-80392-02-8.
- Griffith, R. Marie. (2000). Apostles of Abstinence: Fasting and Masculinity during the Progressive Era. American Quarterly 52 (4): 599-638.
- Nash, Jay R. (1982). Zanies: The World’s Greatest Eccentrics. New Century Publishers. p. 339. ISBN 978-0832901232