Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting and Fasting
I have been advising my clients and hounding my children for decades about the importance of a healthy breakfast. I have read enough research to know that protein and good fat is proven helpful for reducing cravings throughout the day, reduced calorie intake and levelling blood sugar levels.
So when fasting came (back) on to the scene I was skeptical, there are sooo many fads coming and going that I like to be 100% sure it is safe and effective. I may be a health freak but I don’t recommend anything to my clients that I don’t have facts for.
Well fasting has not disappeared, in fact it seems to be getting more and more talked about. I have taken a few months to actually research fasting and intermittent fasting and must admit there are a lot of good studies showing the real health benefits, especially related to breast cancer.
Let’s focus on fasting and what I am comfortable with stating.
Intermittent Fasting (IF) has definitely made sense to me. Not in the fact of missing breakfast, but by concentrating on reducing night eating. Let’s say you eat 6ish, have breaky at 7ish this gives you a full 13 hours fasting already. I have always advocated having an early dinner and curtailing late-night snacking, it’s such a smart choice for anyone. Eating before bedtime is of no benefit to your health! Sleeping is a time of rest and repair and the act of digesting takes energy away from these important functions.
I have even been experimenting delaying some of my breakfasts 4 hours to get to 16 hours fasting. It has been easy for me and I know I have given my digestive tract plenty of time to rest and empty.
IF and Cancer
“…fasting for fewer than 13 hours per night was associated with a 36% higher risk of breast cancer recurrence compared to fasting 13 or more hours per night…” (1)
“Prolonging the length of the nightly fasting interval may be a simple, nonpharmacologic strategy for reducing the risk of breast cancer recurrence. Improvements in glucoregulation and sleep may be mechanisms linking nightly fasting with breast cancer prognosis….we hypothesize that interventions to prolong the nightly fasting interval could potentially reduce the risk of other cancers” (2) (3)
“STF during chemotherapy is well tolerated and appears to improve quality of life and fatigue during chemotherapy.“ (4)
Other Health Benefits of IF
Here are a few of the many studies showing IF lowers insulin levels and significantly improves insulin sensitivity, as well as improves insulin sensitivity, improves fasting glucose, significantly lowers blood pressure, oxidative stress, and appetite..” (11) (12) “Given the associations of nightly fasting with glycemic control and sleep, we hypothesize that interventions to prolong the nightly fasting interval could potentially reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other cancers” (2) (3)
The latest science updates around water fasting seems exciting and promising concerning Cancer in particular.
The main focus/reasons around fasting is enhancing the immune system, as explained here:
“In 2014, Longo and colleagues demonstrated that fasting caused “old” immune cells to die in mice, which were replaced by stem cells (stem cells are like a blank-canvas and can become any kind of cell) as soon as the subjects recommenced eating. They concluded that a 3-day fast could help regenerate a strong immune system.” (7)
Here is quite an in-depth good article explaining and providing many study links on calorie restriction, fasting (such as 7&9)
“While most of this research has been on animals, a modest amount of information on humans has accumulated that indicate a protective effect against secondary aging. Specifically, risk factors for atherosclerosis and diabetes are markedly reduced in humans following CR, along with inflammatory markers, like C-reactive protein and tumor necrosis factor.“ (8)
“a 48-hour fast in mice slowed the growth and spread of five out of the eight cancers studied. They showed that the combination of fasting cycles with chemotherapy was more effective than chemotherapy alone in all cancers studied” (9)
Fasting and Gut Microbiome
You should now know how important increasing the amount of good bacteria and diversity of bacteria is to our health. I was concerned about the result of fasting on these good gut bacteria I have been striving to improve for so many years.
Well I came across this study which I found very interesting and pretty much tipped me over to Intermittent Fasting.
“It’s suggested that since evolution of billions of years, bacteria often had to survive in conditions with far less food. In our modern “times of plenty” the bacteria also gorge which seems to result in a negative outcome for them and.. us. In this mice study found that fasting for 24h increased gut bacteria diversity and lowered inflammation (5), augmented intestinal stem cell function (10).
Intermittent fasting seems to encourage growth and improve the health of our gut bacteria which means we have better health.” (6)
If you were wanting to try longer water fasting please make sure you are given the ok and then overseen by a professional medical practitioner – there can be reasons (eg if you are a diabetic,underweight or very ill) that water fasts could be dangerous so it is not something to go into lightly.
You could always try going one step further with IF by substituting your night meal with a vegetable (not fruit that will spike your blood sugar levels) juice. This gives the body a nice quantity of easily digestible nutrients. Don’t forget “your body needs good protein and good fats!
As always I stress… we are all different, one diet may help one person but may not suit another. Go with your own “gut” (pardon the pun) feelings. Keep the things in your life that truly work for your health and try to release those you know don’t (even if you want to deny this). Try things that resinate with you and you feel comfortable is safe for you.
I have revamped my 10 Day Cleanse. It is a gentle 10 days clean eating, supplementing and learning how to improve your health with simple strategies you CAN incorporate into your lifestyle. Learn more here
- Cheng CW, Adams GB, Perin L, et al. Prolonged fasting reduces IGF-1/PKA to promote hematopoietic-stem-cell-based regeneration and reverse immunosuppression. Cell stem cell 2014;14:810-23.
- Lee C, Raffaghello L, Brandhorst S, et al. Fasting cycles retard growth of tumors and sensitize a range of cancer cell types to chemotherapy. Science translational medicine 2012;4:124ra27.