By Richard Gale and Gary Null PhD
I have personally incorporated intermittent fasting into my regular eating regimen for many years, and it is part of the protocol I use during the anti-aging health retreats and clinical studies I offer. 
Because this ancient health practice is so widespread throughout the world, I find it not surprising that during the past decade there has been a rise in the number of research papers noting intermittent fasting’s health benefits being published in peer-reviewed medical journals.
Finally the medical community is expressing an interest in including intermittent fasting into some patients’ regular eating schedule as a means to manage and reduce weight and to prevent a variety of illnesses. In many cases, this modified eating regimen has reversed disease. 
The practice of fasting to sustain health, fight off illnesses and to increase physical stamina has a long history going back many millennia. Indigenous peoples have long known about fasting’s benefits. Undoubtedly fasting is necessary when there is food scarcity.
However we might also consider the long fasts undertaken when animals hibernate; their metabolic functions decline enormously and later they reemerge remarkably rejuvenated at the cellular level. We also observe fasting behavior in our pets when they seemingly reduce their food consumption, perhaps to ward off an illness or when feeling under the weather.
Therefore it is not surprising that we find fasting regularly prescribed in many traditional medical systems such as Indian Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and the Sowa-Rigpa medicine practiced in Tibet. 
Intermittent fasting educates us not just about what we eat, but when to eat.  Generally, it refers to eating during specific times of the day and for only a certain number of hours. Before the tsunami of modernity’s distractions to keep us awake late through the night with computers and the internet, social nightlife, endless entertainment, technological luxuries to enable us to work into the wee hours or hold a night job, people would go to sleep much earlier.
Life then was also more exercise friendly. Without all of the modern technological distractions, people were far more active and therefore more tired in the evening.  It was a healthier lifestyle in many but not all respects, and people could go for much longer periods of time without meals or snacking during the day. 
As a consequence, there are many illnesses, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes, that have been associated with our modern sedentary, stimulus driven lifestyle and over consumption of calories and nutritionally deficient foods. These lifestyle diseases are among some of the medical conditions that intermittent fasting has been shown to reverse effectively. 
Mark Mattson, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University, is one of the leading experts in intermittent fasting and has studied it for over 25 years.  Mattson says
“Intermittent fasting contrasts with the normal eating pattern for most Americans, who eat throughout their waking hours. If someone is eating three meals a day, plus snacks, and they’re not exercising, then every time they eat, they’re running on those calories and not burning their fat stores.”
There is no one single fasting regimen. Different experts recommend different strategies.
Among the more common ones is the Daily Approach Fast.  Christie Williams, a dietician also at Johns Hopkins, recommends this approach. It limits our having a meal per 6-8 hour period daily. 
The method I most advocate and teach in my anti-aging retreats is the Modified Intermittent Fast (MIF) or sometimes referred to as the 5:2 routine.  We eat regularly for five days a week and then reduce our intake substantially during the remaining two days.
I recommend fresh juicing, protein drinks and liquids during those days in order to maintain our necessary caloric intake. Another MIF method is to limit our calorie intake to only one 600-calorie meal during fast days. 
Other intermittent fasting protocols include:
The Daily Time-Restricted Fast:  This fast is also referred to as the 16/8 Fast.  We alternate between eating during an 8 hour period and then fast for the remaining 16 hours. I also recommend this fast, however, I modify the fasting period to 14 hours; therefore it is a 14/10 Fast. Ultimately we need to know our body’s own needs and to adjust ourselves accordingly. 
Alternate Day Fasting:  Eat your regular diet one day and then either completely fast or have one small 500 to 600-calorie meal the following day. This is the common method however I would suggest increasing the caloric intake to 1,200 per day. 
A lot of research is still underway, nevertheless the evidence is now convincing enough to state that regular fasting will lead to a longer and healthier life.
A University of Illinois study in 2019, enrolling about 2,000 participants with a history of heart problems who regularly fasted for 5 years, concluded that long term fasting even for one day once a month and extended over a long period of time activates very beneficial biomolecular mechanisms that will build up over time and increase our lifespan. 
There is some preliminary evidence that regular intermittent fasting may prime our body’s immune host defense mechanisms to ward off SARS-CoV-2 infections.
Relying upon earlier studies showing that a restricted diet through fasting activates our cell’s surveillance system to boost immunity, researchers at the Korea Institute of Science proposed that fasting, when undertaken as a regular “religious ritual” with an adequate amount of essential micronutrients—such as Vitamins C and D, and zinc, may effectively be a viable strategy to enhance autophagy to reduce the risks of the virus’ pathogenesis if infected. 
Other important medical findings that should excite us to adopt a fasting strategy into our eating routines include:
Intermittent fasting modulates mitochondrial bioenergetics that induces anti-anxiety effects (research conducted at the Federal University of Porto Alegre).
Time-Restricted fasts reduced the risk of breast cancer associated with obesity (research conducted by the University of California at San Diego).
Intermittent fasting dietary plans have a positive impact on metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes and type-2 diabetes (research conducted by Case Western Reserve University).
To further strengthen fasting’s benefits to prevent diabetes and improve insulin sensitivity, taking probiotic supplements during fasting is beneficial. 
Caloric restriction improves inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Mt Sinai Hospital observed that when patients undertake intermittent fasts, pro-inflammatory cells enter a “sleep mode” and are less active than if they were being “fed.”
In children with the most common type of childhood leukemia, intermittent fasting inhibits growth of cancer cells.   (Research conducted by University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.)
And finally, Harvard scientists discovered evidence that intermittent fasting may fight off aging and promote longevity at a cellular level by enhancing mitochondrial homeostasis, which would contribute to our cells’ vitality. 
The studies cited above, in addition to many others, should motivate us to incorporate a fasting regimen into our lives. Fasting clearly has broad and significant health benefits. However, for many people with worrisome medical conditions, professional medical supervision is highly advised.
Johns Hopkins Medicine website advises people to check with their doctors before introducing intermittent fasting into your daily eating routine. The Mayo Clinic also warns against fasting if pregnant or breastfeeding. And if you are diagnosed with kidney stones, gastroesophageal reflux, predisposition to diabetes and cancer to be certain to get medical advice before starting with your fasting regimen. 

Comments are closed.

Skip to content