WELLNESS--Fasting has been around since the beginning of time. Three meals a day is a modern day luxury, and before food was readily available humans fasted whether they wanted to or not. Finding food by hunting and gathering meant eating when they found nutrition, but very often they would skip a day or days on end.
New research is putting fasting back on the mainstream map. Before we go any further, it is important to note that fasting, whether it be intermittent or a longer episode should only be done under the guidance of a health care provider. It can be dangerous if not done right, and if you are on medications it is even more important to receive guidance by a professional.
Intermittent fasting is when people cut calories partially or completely on certain days of the week. Some people do one day a week where they only eat between 400 and 600 calories and others pick two days a week that are not consecutive. There are many options as to how to go about this and some people will eat no food at all for 1 to 3 non-consecutive days and others will simply cut calories to around 500 every other day a couple days a week until desired goals are reached. Another way to fast is to simply shift your eating schedule to an 8 hour period meaning you only eat during 8 hours a day. For example, someone might only eat food between 8am and 4pm each day and then not eat again until the next day. This can also be done every other day 2 or 3 days a week. There are many books available on the topic of fasting.
The body and brain benefits of fasting are becoming clearer through recent research. When we eat food the body has quick access to glycogen to use as energy. This glycogen is burned away relatively quickly in certain parts of the body, but it takes about 10 hours to deplete all the glycogen that is stored in the liver specifically. If someone exercises the glycogen stores can also be burned up faster in the liver. By depleting the glycogen stores in the liver, the body creates ketone bodies, which are proving to be very beneficial to the brain. Fasting can also increase the mitochondria in your cells that are used to give you energy, and repair DNA.
Research is showing that by fasting our brains are actually stimulated. This is due to the fact that the brain knows the body needs food and by not feeding the body, the brain becomes more alert and active. This process stimulates neuronal activity and ultimately leads to better brain health, lowering the risk of brain degenerative diseases in old age. Many people already know that the best way to stay in shape is to constantly change your workout. This idea of mixing it up and almost confusing the body to stay fit also works for the brain. The 3 meals a day every day over and over strategy allows the brain to expect nothing new and slowly start to weaken. Advocates of fasting or vigorous exercise speculate that brain death can be avoided.
During both fasting and exercise the brain produces proteins specific to promoting the growth of dendrites and strengthening synapses in the brain and ultimately helping to stave off or prevent degenerative brain disease all together.
Vol 13 Issue 103
Pub: Dec 22, 2015