Fast­ing may be the an­swer to weight loss

Ev­i­dence is mount­ing that fast­ing im­proves our meta­bolic health. A bit like re­boot­ing our bod­ies

Sunday Times - - Contents -

The no-feast-only-famine ap­proach to eat­ing isn’t for every­one (or most of us) but in­creas­ingly sci­en­tists and clin­i­cians are find­ing that fast­ing ben­e­fits our health and longevity, not only our minds, as gu­rus have long known. Three men who fasted in­ter­mit­tently were able to stop in­ject­ing them­selves with in­sulin within a month of start­ing the regime, re­search pub­lished this week in the Bri­tish Med­i­cal Jour­nal shows. A trio of men is not a sci­en­tific sam­ple; but the re­sults are the lat­est in mount­ing ev­i­dence that fast­ing im­proves our meta­bolic health. The im­pact of fast­ing seems to be like re­boot­ing our bod­ies.

For this study two men fasted for a full 24 hours on al­ter­nate days, while the third fasted three days a week. They were only al­lowed tea, cof­fee, wa­ter and broth, and a very low-calo­rie meal in the evening, on fast days.

For about 10 months they stuck to this pat­tern “without too much dif­fi­culty”, re­duc­ing their blood glu­cose lev­els and los­ing weight (10%-18%).

Two of them were able to stop all di­a­betic drugs (one in five days) and the third stopped three out of four of his drugs, the cases stud­ies re­vealed.

But even peo­ple without chronic con­di­tions stand to gain — and lose, in body fat — by fast­ing, what­ever type of reg­i­men they adopt.

Fast­ing overnight — drink­ing only wa­ter or calo­rie-free drinks — from 6pm to 10am con­trib­uted to weight loss and low­er­ing blood pres­sure in an­other small study in the US. On av­er­age par­tic­i­pants had 350 fewer calo­ries over 24 hours.

One of the eas­ier “fast­ing” op­tions means cut­ting down the num­ber of hours you eat in a day, while not re­strict­ing what you eat — no di­et­ing. By nar­row­ing their “eat­ing win­dow”, peo­ple in an­other UK study lost body fat.

They de­layed eat­ing break­fast by 90 min­utes and had din­ner 90 min­utes ear­lier — and over­all ate about 25% less. Their break­fasts moved to on av­er­age 9am to 10am and their din­ners to 6pm or 7pm.

On av­er­age the group of nine who shifted their meals, in the 10-week study, lost more than twice as much body fat as peo­ple who did not. Six­teen healthy and over­weight in­di­vid­u­als took part in the trial.

The times were not com­pat­i­ble long term with fam­ily and so­cial meals, the par­tic­i­pants said, yet if the meal times were more flex­i­ble they would con­sider fol­low­ing this rou­tine.

Be­fore a climb­ing hol­i­day last month, I ex­per­i­mented with eat­ing later in the morn­ing for five days, drink­ing my first cup of cof­fee black at dawn, and eat­ing break­fast mid-morn­ing at work. I had my last meal at about 9pm or 10pm.

My guinea-pig ap­proach proves noth­ing though I did get leaner, short term. Of course this didn’t last, when on our hol­i­day I drank beer at the end of a day’s climb­ing.

I had more suc­cess with stick­ing to this op­tion — given my op­po­si­tion to di­et­ing — than an­other “semi-fast” I vol­un­teered to test, which claims to switch the body into anti-age­ing and fat-burn­ing mode.

Peo­ple on the “fast­ing-mim­ick­ing” study in 2015 by the Longevity In­sti­tute of the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia — who ate a plant-based diet of only 700 calo­ries a day — had a boost in im­mu­nity, re­pair of the body and loss of ab­dom­i­nal fat.

In­sti­tute di­rec­tor and study co-au­thor, Pro­fes­sor Val­ter Longo, whole­heart­edly sup­ports it and said his whole fam­ily and depart­ment had tested it.

Mice in a sim­i­lar ex­per­i­ment to the hu­mans gorged them­selves af­ter the five days of semi-fast­ing were up, but the health gains they had achieved re­mained.

Fast­ing is also im­por­tant in the Bant­ing diet, pop­u­larised in SA by Pro­fes­sor Tim Noakes, an ex­em­plary ad­vo­cate for it.

He said: “One of the keys to the diet is fast­ing …

Peo­ple should prac­tise por­tion con­trol and eat fewer meals a day.”

Di­eti­cian Irene Labuschagne from the Nu­tri­tion In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre at Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity said that in­ter­mit­tent fast­ing — for ex­am­ple, ev­ery sec­ond day cut­ting your food in­take to about a quar­ter of the nor­mal in­take — had been shown to be as ef­fec­tive as con­stant di­et­ing in pro­tect­ing the heart and los­ing weight. LS

Peo­ple are ad­vised to seek med­i­cal and pro­fes­sional ad­vice be­fore start­ing any type of fast — un­less they have prior ex­pe­ri­ence or have 100% healthy track record.


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