Fasting May Be Beneficial, But Here Are Some Details You May Want to Know
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder
There are many famous people who endorse intermittent fasting. Apparently, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey skips breakfast and lunch and only eats dinner (between the hours of 6:30pm and 9pm).
"During the day, I feel so much more focused," he said during a podcast, according to People Magazine.
"You have this very focused point of mind in terms of this drive. The time back from breakfast and lunch allowed me to focus more on what my day is."
According to People, Molly Sims, a veteran model, also practices and encourages intermittent fasting.
"It's a tool that can help you reset and reboot your metabolism," she wrote on her blog, reports People.
"Especially if you've been eating late dinners, or snacking and drinking late at night at parties, this can be helpful to try to reset."
Sims practices a much less strict fasting regimen than Dorsey, finishing dinner by 6pm and then not eating or drinking anything except herbal tea or water until 6am (or sometimes later) the next day. Basically, she fasts for a minimum of 12 hours.
I’m not suggesting that we take our health and medical advice from famous people. I have withnessed the benefits of intermittent fasting in my own home. My husband practices it and swears by the health benefits. For example, he utilized intermittent fasting to reduce his non-alcoholic fatty liver. And then there are the scientific studies and medical research to support it. In fact, I have previously blogged about the potential benefits of intermittent fasting.
So why are we addressing this issue again?
I think now is a perfect time to revisit this topic, because so many people are trying to get back in shape and lose the “COVID 15” or “quarantine 15.” More importantly, if there is one thing that enduring the pandemic has taught us it’s that we can no longer neglect our health. We must address why so many Americans suffer from metabolic issues such as type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease.
I always suggest that individuals seek the advice of a competent healthcare professional before starting a new diet (especially one that involves restrictive eating), but a recent study involving mice shed some light on fasting that I think is very useful and important to know.
The study was conducted by scientists at Salk Institute for Biological Studies. The majority of previous studies involving mice regarding intermittent fasting only involved young, male mice, according to one Medical Xpress report that discusses the study. The study conducted by Salk, however, used both male and female as well as young and old mice.
To refresh you on the basics of fasting, there are three general types of fasting:
- Time-restricted feeding - fasting on a daily basis, usually between eight to 12 hours.
- Calorie restriction - reducing the amount of calories consumed in a day (800 to 1,000 calories per day).
- Periodic fasting - Very intense. Limiting calories or not eating at all between three and five days.
The study from Salk focuses on time-restricted feeding (also called time-restricted eating). In a nutshell, the results of the study revealed that time-restricted eating (TRE) offered multiple health benefits in addition to weight loss. But the study also revealed that the benefits varied among different sexes and age groups.
The researchers used male and female mice from two different age groups (equivalent to 20 and 42-year-old humans). They fed the mice a high-fat, high-sugar diet, but restricted their eating time to nine hours per day. The researchers conducted tests and assessed the health of the mice through multiple parameters including incidence of fatty liver disease, glucose regulation, muscle mass, performance and endurance and survival of sepsis.
“They also took the rare step of matching their lab conditions to the animals' circadian clocks (mice sleep during the day and rise at night), often working via night-vision goggles and specialized lighting,” according to the Medical Xpress report.
In my opinion, this step is important considering that time-restricted eating may be beneficial for human circadian rhythms (which is essentially our 24-hour sleep/wake cycles). In this pH Labs blog, I discuss TRE and one doctor who believes we actually have multiple circadian rhythms - one in the gut, kidney and liver that must all be in sync in order to attain optimal health.
The results of the study by Salk showed that regardless of age, sex or weight loss from practicing TRE (the female mice did not lose weight like the male mice did), TRE did “strongly protect” against fatty liver disease.
"We were surprised to find that, although the females on TRE were not protected from weight gain, they still showed metabolic benefits, including less-fatty livers and better-controlled blood sugar," said the main author of the study.
The mice were given oral glucose tolerance tests after 16 hours of fasting. The results showed that fasting was connected to a lower increase in blood glucose and a more rapid return to normal blood sugar levels in young and middle-aged male mice as well as a “significant improvement in glucose tolerance” in both young and middle-aged female mice. Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways was that both older female and male mice exhibited a better ability to restore normal blood sugar levels compared to the control group of mice (who had food available to eat at any time, which is the current circumstance for many Americans).
And an even bigger takeaway...
“The researchers also found that TRE may protect both males and females from sepsis-induced death—a particular danger in ICUs, especially during the pandemic,” Medical Xpress reports.
“After administering a toxin that induced a sepsis-like condition in the mice, the researchers monitored survival rates for 13 days and found that TRE protected both male and female mice from dying of sepsis.”
In addition to this, practicing TRE even increased the ability of the male mice to improve and add muscle mass as well as improve muscle performance. Unfortunately, this was not seen in the female mice, but this is a message to female humans that they may have to be a bit more diligent when it comes to preventing excessive weight gain and preserving muscle mass.
It is important to acknowledge, once again, that these mice that practiced TRE were fed a high-fat, high-sugar diet when they were allowed to eat. I wouldn’t suggest that humans practice periods of fasting and then eat unhealthy, processed foods during periods when eating is permitted. This would not be healthy and may lead to nutritional deficiencies and other imbalances.
Again, make it a habit to seek good medical advice before practicing time-restricted eating or any type of intermittent fasting. If you come to the conclusion that fasting is not appropriate for you, there is still plenty you can do to help prevent or better manage metabolic issues such as type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease, including:
- Working out regularly
- Eating a nutrient-rich diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Drinking alcohol in moderation (if at all)
- Avoiding smoking at all costs
- Getting routine nutrient testing in order to identify any nutrient imbalances (if an imbalance is discovered, a competent healthcare professional can work with you on making the necessary dietary changes and recommend quality supplements if necessary)
If you are someone who practices intermittent fasting, what has been your experience?
Enjoy your healthy life!
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or another competent healthcare practitioner to get specific medical advice for your situation.
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.