Do you want to lose weight? Boost your brainpower? Cleanse toxins from your body? Enhance your body’s natural healing abilities? Then fasting is the best tool for you.
Fasting is the abstinence from all or some foods or drinks for a set period of time. Although popular as an essential part of deep spiritual practices, you can practice fasting for –
- Body detoxification
- Healing cellular damage
- Ketone production
- Lowering the risk of diabetes
- Preventing cancer, and
- Fast metabolism.
However, there are lots of myths surrounding fasting. Many views this practice as dangerous for health or diet fad to lose weight. But, science proves it wrong.
Read on to know the scientific effects of fasting on the body.
Fasting triggers healing
Do you know fasting can help you repair cells?
Growth hormone – IGF-1 is essential in our childhood days to grow in height and increase our body size. After a certain stage when we have reached a normal human height, we no more require this growth hormone, and the levels of IGF-1 drop naturally. If the level of this growth hormone continues to rise, it may trigger the growth of tumors and other forms of cancer. In short, a high level of growth hormone keeps our body in the growth mode instead of repair mode.
IGF-1 levels are linked to proteins from animal food or saturated food. So, if you adding a lot of seafood, milk, red or white meat to your diet, then IGF-1 levels may rise beyond the normal levels.
By ommitting animal food, you can reduce IGF-1 levels. For quick results, perform a short 3-day water fast and IGF-1 levels will rapidly drop to a normal state. With decrease in growth hormone levels, a number of repair genes are activated in our body. They function to repair any kind of cellular damage and begin to heal the body from the inside.
In the BBC documentary “Eat, Fast & Live Longer”, television journalist Michael Mosley shares his experience of fasting and its effect on growth hormone. You can watch his journey and transformation here.
Fasting can reduce the side effects of chemotherapy according to Valter Longo, a Gerontological researcher at The University of Southern California. He and his team found health advantages of not eating at all.
When they provided less food to the middle-aged mice for two 4-day periods each month, those mice outlived their peers by about 3 months. Also, their insulin levels were 90% lower than the control mice and they were 45% less likely to develop cancer. Despite less food, these mice were still able to retain their mental ability and beat the control animals in two kinds of memory tests.
In another study based on the mice model, short-term fasting was found to be as effective as chemotherapeutic agents in slowing down the progression of tumors. It can be concluded from the study results that fasting multiple times or say repetitive cycles promote differential stress sensitization in a range of tumors. And replace or augment the efficacy of certain chemotherapy drugs used to treat various types of cancer.
Fasting benefits brain
When we take food, glucose is converted to glycogen and stored in our liver in the form of fuel. Within 10-12 hours, our body consumes all the glycogen. And in absence of glycogen, our body starts burning fats to release ketones, which our brain uses for energy.
When we don’t eat food, our body doesn’t get access to glucose, forcing cells to seek an alternate source of energy. Thus, our body begins gluconeogenesis, a natural process of producing its own sugar. The liver converts lactate, amino acids, other non-carbohydrates, and fats into glucose energy and ketones. This is how our bodies conserve energy during fasting and lower our heart rate and blood pressure.
As you can see, ketones play an important role as an energy source during starvation and balances blood sugar level. Although our brain is dependent on glucose as a primary energy substrate, but is capable of utilizing ketones such as β-hydroxybutyrate (βHB) and acetoacetate (AcAc) during fasting or prolonged starvation.