Medical Update – Intermittent Fasting

4-1-2016 12-28-27 PMBeing from down South, many of us grew up in churches. We have read the various portions of the Scriptures which tell us to fast, and about people who fasted. Some of the most familiar stories include such times as when Daniel ate no meat or sweets for 3 weeks (Daniel 10), when Moses was with the Lord on Mt. Saini and ate no food or drank no water for 40 days and nights, and when Christ was in the wilderness for 40 days and had fasted prior to his temptation by Satan. But many of us wonder, is fasting healthy, and should we still do it today?

One of the things I’m finding that I love the most about science is that it is beginning to catch up with Biblical truth, in more areas than one. Medical science is no exception, given recent studies on brain science. While doing research for this article, I found an interesting study published by Cell Metabolism, a peer-reviewed journal about molecular biology. In their findings, authors Longo and Mattson found that fasting helps “reduce obesity, hypertension [high blood pressure], asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis.” They also found that it has the potential to delay aging, and help treat and prevent diseases.

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What Is Fasting
Fasting is defined as a period of time in which one consumes no food or drink, with the exception of water. There are several variations on fasting which do allow for food, so long as it is less than 200 calories per day. Typical fasts range in time anywhere from 12 hours to 3 weeks. Some fasts, though not common, are done for longer. If you are new to fasting, start slowly, and work your way up to the desired goal.

Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that cycles between a fasting state and periods of eating, typically giving a narrow window of time (usually 6 to 8 hours) in which you should eat, saying nothing about which foods in particular you should consume, versus which foods you should avoid. However, it should be noted that a healthy diet is one that is high in fruits, vegetables, berries, legumes, and lean protein sources. In order to maximize your results from intermittent fasting, changing dietary patterns would be helpful. Some popular recommendations include the 16/8 pattern (16 hours of the day that you don’t eat and a shorter window of time, such as 10am to 6pm, for consuming foods), the 5:2 diet in which you choose 2 non-consecutive days of the week to consume a restricted 500-600 calories per day, and eat normally the other 5 days. Additionally, there is the Eat-Stop-Eat pattern in which you eat dinner one day and consume no food until dinner the next day.

Many laboratory tests require that you fast beforehand. It is understood that fasting can help your body to do a “reset,” which gives accurate numbers on test such as cholesterol, hemoglobin A1C, and blood glucose. Hormone levels are also affected by fasting, which can alter your metabolism and patterns of gene expression.

Some possible benefits of intermittent fasting include but are not limited to:
• Fat loss
• Muscle gain
• Cellular repair
• Changes in genetic expression
• Reduced insulin resistance and lower blood glucose
• Decreased inflammation
• Reduced cholesterol and triglycerides
• Prevention of cancer
• Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease
• Rebuilding of nerve cells
• Longer lifespan

Though more studies are needed to look at these effects, early research in these areas is promising when combined with a healthy diet and exercise program. The important thing to remember is that it starts with one simple change, and this is one of the simplest changes you can make for your health.

For more information and ideas about making changes to your lifestyle, you can visit my website
As always, check with your healthcare provider for recommendations before beginning any lifestyle changes. Any information provided above is the personal opinion of the writer, and is not intended to diagnose or treat any health issues you may have.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN