When I was studying nutrition we were taught that eating little and often was the key to maintaining good health. Regular meals, with snacks in between, would keep us healthy and help us reach an ideal weight. Skipping meals or going for extended periods without food was certainly not encouraged.
With the knowledge and research that we have today, this belief system seems very outdated. Going for extended periods of time without food, we now know, can benefits our health in many ways.
Fasting became widely popularised in 2012 following Michael Mosley’s Horizon documentary. Mosley then went on to promote the hugely successful 5:2 Diet which promotes eating a normal calorie diet for five days of the week and restricting your calories to 5/600 for two days. Despite only having gained popularity for it’s health benefits in the past few years, fasting has been practiced amongst religious faiths for many centuries.
Here are 5 ways fasting can benefit your health:
FASTING HELPS YOU LOSE WEIGHT
Not only is fasting a form of calorie restriction, fasting has beneficial effects on how your hormones influence fat storage. Regular fasting has been shown to help your body more effectively maintain a healthy weight.
FASTING HAS ANTI-AGEING BENEFITS
Fasting has been shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation – two key processes that speed up the ageing process. In Mosley’s documentary, when compared to someone of his own age on a calorie restricted diet, Mosley performed much worse in all age related tests performed before he starting fasting.
FASTING PROMOTES CELL REPAIR
In a fasted state, our cells begin a ‘waste removal’ process called autophagy. This is where your cells clean out debris, including toxins, and recycle damaged cell components.
FASTING CAN REDUCE RISK OF TYPE 2 DIABETES
Studies have shown that fasting can help lower blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance. In some people, fasting has even been show to reverse type 2 diabetes.
FASTING PROMOTES BENEFICIAL CHANGES IN GENE EXPRESSION
Even if you have a genetic predisposition for disease, lifestyle choices can ‘switch on’ or ‘switch off’ genes. Fasting has positive effects on how genes express themselves helping to prolong lifespan and protect against disease.
There are a number of different ways to fast and different methods suit different people. Personally, I prefer to fast for 4-5 days at a time, 2-3 times a year, rather than try to fit it into my weekly schedule. You might imagine that fasting would leave you feeling tired, hungry and miserable, but in fact quite the opposite is true. Strangely, I look forward to my green-vegetable-juice-only fasts.
Another popular way to fast is restricting your eating window to just eight hours in every 24 hour day. That might mean that you don’t eat before 11am and you’ll have finished your last meal by 7pm giving your body a 16 hour window to fast.
One of the professors interviewed in Mosley’s documentary was Dr Valter Longo. Longo is a professor at the University of Southern California, researcher and leading expert in the field of fasting and it’s effects on cellular protection against ageing and disease. Longo has developed a five day diet that mimics fasting, providing all of the health benefits without having to stop eating. The diet is called ProLon and it’s made up of nutrient dense, plant based, mini meals. ProLon will launch over here in the next couple of months and I’m really excited to have been asked to be the UK’s brand ambassador. I’ll be working with ProLon to monitor case studies, educate the press and general public, as well as the medical community, about the benefits of fasting and this practical way to fast.
ProLon is not yet available in the UK but as soon as it is, I’ll be offering it to my clients. If the ProLon approach to fasting appeals to you and you would like to be added to be informed as soon as it’s made available then please do get in touch.