To fast or not to fast?

Fasting is the new buzzword these days when it comes to dieting, eating, lifestyle and longevity.

Fasting has been around for ages.  There are different types of fasting.  In Biblical times it was used as a way to get closer to God and had to be done in humility and with the right attitude, heightening the senses and strengthening the spiritual man.

Buddhists have also practiced fasting in its different forms for centuries.  They believe in moderation in all things and especially when it comes to food.  A lot of Buddhists only eat once a day and also use fasting for longer periods to purify their bodies and clarify their thoughts. For them, fasting highlights an individual’s attachment to food and helps one discover how much of the craving for food is born out of need and how much is greed or desire.

The Islamic religion also have their own ritual of fasting called Ramadan. During this time they fast all day and only eat at night once the sun has gone down.

So fasting is by no means a new thing.

Currently in South Africa the new rave is the  “Banting Diet”. This diet cuts out carbohydrates and incorporates a lot of fat and protein into the diet. Intermittent fasting is now used in conjunction with this high fat diet.

So what is intermittent fasting?

There are different forms of intermittent fasting. It can mean abstaining from food for a 24-hour period, eg. only eating at supper time or not eating between certain time periods during the day. It can also be to not eat for 2 days out of the week or 3 days out of the week.  Most people using this method of intermittent fasting employ it mainly for weight loss and find it very effective in that regard. They state that although difficult initially, it becomes easier and easier the more you do it and the reward they reap in weight loss make it more than worthwhile.

Please take note though that fasting (especially over a prolonged period) is not recommended without consulting your doctor first, especially if you have diabetes for instance.

Another “diet” that incorporates intermittent fasting is the “Wolf Diet”.  People following this lifestyle don’t eat for the whole day and then only eats at night.  This diet also seem to promote high proteins and fat with low carbohydrates.  People on this diet relate high energy levels. They exercise regularly and feel great. Once again they find it an easy lifestyle to sustain.

The most amazing though is the latest research that was done on fasting and the beneficial effect it has on longevity. The person at the forefront of this research is Valter Longo, Professor of Gerontology at USC. He and his team discovered that during occasional fasting the body shuts down and goes into standby mode. When your body goes into standby mode it cannot waste energy on redundant or dead cells and starts killing them off. Killing off old cells switches on your body’s stem cells so that it can create new cells. In effect bad cells are killed off and your body regenerates with new functioning cells and therefore rejuvenates the body as a whole promoting longevity. Thinking about it, you won’t want useless cells hanging around and clogging your system anyway.

According to Valter Longo, by fasting, you lower protein and certain amino acids and you control pathways [in the body] when you fast. The pathways are known as TOR, PKA and IGF pathways, which when controlled can switch on certain reactions inside the body. For example making IGF less, reduces risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Prof Longo has developed a fast mimicking diet where he has worked out exactly how many calories, proteins, fats and nutrients the body needs to function while still thinking it is in a fast so as to trigger the beneficial effects of fasting.  The “fast” is then done for a period of 5 days and repeated every 3 months.  This way of fasting may be more attractive to most people than an only water fast for 5 days.  However, to really trigger all the beneficial reactions in the body the fast needs to be for 5 days or longer.

As we might not all have access to the diet aids promoted by Prof Longo, I have discovered this website that gives you already planned meals and recipes for the 5 day mimicking fast. These meals incorporate the ratio’s of proteins, minerals and such as prescribed by Prof Longo.

So, maybe there is something to fasting.  I am willing to try it out, maybe you should too.

At worst we can lose a bit of weight and at best, maybe we’ll live until 100!



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