Nutrition is a part of the holistic approach we at Perth Allied Health Clinic use to help people achieve their best. We consistently get asked questions in clinic about the benefit of certain varieties of diets and programs. Among these is the current trend of fasting as part of a healthy and balanced diet.
Fasting is not a new concept. Although it has gained traction again in nutrition and weight loss circles in the last few years. Michael Moseley is probably one of the more popular proponents in recent times with his 16:8 hour and 5:2-day ratios with a ton of research to back up the benefits. We must remember that our bodies have an amazing set of systems that keep us alive and thriving during times of limited caloric intake. We are designed that way so during periods of food scarcity we do not just die. We can also see over history some cultures have periods of fasting for various cultural and religious reasons.
The issue is that in modern times in the western world, food has never been so cheap and accessible. Rather than having to work hard, every day for a small handful of nutrition, we can go to a supermarket or fast-food drive through and order as much as we realistically want. Over history this has not been the case. Think to various parts of the world that do not have that luxury right now. Examples in history also include the great potato famine in Ireland in the 1800’s or even during world war 1 and 2 people had to survive on limited food for extended periods. We can be thankful that we have access to so much food, but the issue is making sure we do not overindulge to maintain our health.
Intermittent fasting may involve restring caloric intake to a few set hours of your day, then going a long period without food until the next day. Other options are to restrict calories on 2 consecutive days and then back to normal for the remainder of the week. If you’re really keen, doing a single 24 hour fast or up to 3-7 days in one go is another way of doing an intermittent fast.
What happens in the human body when you fast!
There are some crazy things that happen when you fast. Your body changes the way certain hormones are released and initiates important repair processes. It can also change how certain genes are expressed in the body. Human growth hormone increases by up to 5 times when you fast. Your insulin levels drop making stored fat easier to use for fuel. Your cells will undergo more repair, getting rid of damaged and old proteins. These are just some of the molecular changes in your body when you fast.
How it can help you lose weight, boost your body’s function, and make you feel better!
Weight loss is a common reason people may try intermittent fasting. It can help you reduce your calorie intake, obviously but the affect it has on hormones that control the utilisation of stored fat as a fuel source is more impressive.
Diabetes is a common condition in the western world. Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar by 3–6% and fasting insulin levels by 20–31%, which should protect against type 2 diabetes.
Risk factors for heart disease include cholesterol and blood sugars among other things. Fasting reduces this long term.
Chronic Inflammation is an increasingly common area of study when considering chronic health disorders. Fasting may help reduce the inflammatory markers seen in blood tests.
There are some new studies that indicate fasting may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. It can also help with brain health, increasing hormones in the brain that help grow new nerve cells. An interesting study in rats indicated that intermittent fasting helped them live longer (up to 83% longer in some cases)
I understand there are many benefits, but is it really for me?
Eating healthily is easy on paper. But most of us know it can be extremely hard to maintain. We consume food for so many different reasons, most have little to do with giving our body necessary nutrients and keeping us from dying!
One of the main benefits of fasting though is that it is relatively easy. No meal prepping, or spending money on expensive health foods. It does require a bit of will power and consistency but as seen above it certainly has benefits.
Please remember that playing around with your diet without the correct oversite from a health professional can have consequences. Especially if you have existing health disorders, are pregnant, have a history of eating disorders, taking certain medications and a child. But for most individuals intermittent fasting is safe. Remember we are complex. At Perth Allied Health Clinic, we like to look at our patients as a whole, not just parts – helping guide you through the process of getting your body better is what we do!