- May 31, 2016
- Posted by: emobile
- Category: Researcher's Corner
Emobileclinic Researchers’ corner
Several studies have suggested intermittent fasting has numerous health benefits, including weight loss, lower blood pressure and reduced cholesterol. In recent years, numerous studies have suggested that intermittent fasting – abstaining or reducing food and drink intake periodically – can be good for us, making it one of the most popular diet trends worldwide. One of the most well-known intermittent fasting diets is the 5:2 Fast Diet – a plan that involves eating the recommended calorie intake for 5 days a week but reducing calorie intake to 25% for the remaining 2 days – to 500 calories a day for women and 600 a day for men.
According to Dr. Michael Mosley – author of The Fast Diet books – this eating plan can not only help people lose weight, but it offers an array of other health benefits.
“Studies of intermittent fasting show that not only do people see improvements in blood pressure and their cholesterol levels, but also in their insulin sensitivity,” he adds.
In June 2014, for example, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting periodic fasting – defined in the study as 1 day of water-only fasting a week – may reduce the risk of diabetes among people at high risk for the condition.
In another study, conducted by Dr. Valter Longo and colleagues from the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, found longer periods of fasting – 2-4 days – may even “reboot” the immune system, clearing out old immune cells and regenerating new ones – a process they say could protect against cell damage caused by factors such as aging and chemotherapy.
Since the body is unable to get its energy from food during fasting, it dips into glucose that is stored in the liver and muscles. This begins around 8 hours after the last meal is consumed.
When the stored glucose has been used up, the body then begins to burn fat as a source of energy, which can result in weight loss.
As well as aiding weight loss, Dr. Razeen Mahroof, of the University of Oxford in the UK, explains that the use of fat for energy can help preserve muscle and reduce cholesterol levels.
“A detoxification process also occurs, because any toxins stored in the body’s fat are dissolved and removed from the body,” he adds, noting that after a few days of fasting, higher levels of endorphins – “feel-good” hormones – are produced in the blood, which can have a positive impact on mental well-being.
As said earlier, the study by Dr. Longo and colleagues suggests prolonged fasting may also be effective for regenerating immune cells.
“When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged,” Dr. Longo explains. In their study, published in the Journal Cell Stem Cell, the team found that repeated cycles of 2-4 days without food over a 6-month period destroyed the old and damaged immune cells in mice and generated new ones.
What is more, the team found that cancer patients who fasted for 3 days prior to chemotherapy were protected against immune system damage that can be caused by the treatment, which they attribute to immune cell regeneration.
“The good news is that the body got rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during the fasting,” says Dr. Longo. “Now, if you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or aging, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system.”
With the potential health benefits of fasting widely hailed by nutritionists worldwide, it is no wonder many of us are putting our love of food to one side in order to give it a try.
But intermittent fasting isn’t all bells and whistles, according to some researchers and health care professionals, and there are some people who should avoid the diet altogether.
However, there are some health risks associated with intermittent fasting according to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).
Dehydration, largely because their body is not getting any fluid from food.
Increase stress levels and disrupt sleep.
Dehydration, hunger or lack of sleep during a fasting period can also lead to headaches.
Heartburn; lack of food leads to a reduction in stomach acid, which digests food and destroys bacteria.
In the opinion of many nutritionists, intermittent fasting is a good way to lose weight, some health professionals believe such a diet is ineffective for long-term weight loss.
“The appeal is that [fasting] is quick, but it is quick fluid loss, not substantial weight loss,” says Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Weight Loss Management Center. “If it’s easy off, it will come back quickly – as soon as you start eating normally again.”
Some health professionals believe intermittent fasting may steer people away from healthy eating recommendations, such as eating five portions of fruits and vegetables a day. Many fear fasting may also trigger eating disorders or binge eating.
Other people who should not follow this diet include people who are underweight, individuals under the age of 18, pregnant women, people with type 1 diabetes and individuals recovering from surgery.
While intermittent fasting may have health risks, nutritionists claim it can be good for us if individuals consult with their doctors before adopting such a diet and adhere to it correctly.
Recently, Dr. Longo and colleagues from USC published a study in the Cell Metabolism Metalism revealing how a fasting-mimicking diet (FMD) triggered immune cell regeneration and extended the lifespan of mice.