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Experts say that fasting may boost weight loss, improve memory

Experts say that fasting may boost weight loss, improve memory


The notion of fasting, even “mini” fasting, is rooted in controversy.

Many people say that it clears their mind and is a good way to detox, while others suggest that it can be damaging. Valter Longo, a gerontologist at the University of Southern California who studies fasting, is one person who warns against the habit, saying that those with eating disorders may want to steer clear of them. And holistic health coach Derek Henry of the site, Healing the Body, says that you “…can send your body for a loop” by going abruptly from very unclean eating to an extreme detox.(1,2)

Otherwise, both experts take no issue with the lifestyle, simply advising easing into it, doing it with a friend, avoiding food temptations and staying away from refined carbs and sugars.

In fact, fasting has been found to be very good for health.

According to a recent study conducted by experts from the University of Manchester, fasting based on a 5:2 approach may be ideal. The approach involves eating regularly for five days, but for two days out of the week, going up to 18 hours without eating. When people do eat during those two days, they’re advised to eat around just 600 calories. It’s referred to as “minifasting” and thought to be a beneficial way to improve health.(1)

Loss of body fat, improved memory and immunity during fasting

They ultimately discovered that when overweight women engaged in this plan, they lost more weight and body fat while also making improvements in their insulin resistance than women who limited their calories all seven days of the week. Of course, it’s no surprise that these results were uncovered; losing weight carries these benefits and is also good for heart health, blood pressure and increasing energy.(1)

The study, titled “The effect of intermittent energy and carbohydrate restriction v. daily energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers in overweight women,” was published in The British Journal of Nutrition. It notes:

Intermittent energy restriction may result in greater improvements in insulin sensitivity and weight control than daily energy restriction (DER). We tested two intermittent energy and carbohydrate restriction (IECR) regimens, including one which allowed ad libitum protein and fat (IECR+PF). During the weight maintenance phase, 1 d of IECR or IECR+PF per week maintained the reductions in insulin resistance and weight. In the short term, IECR is superior to DER with respect to improved insulin sensitivity and body fat reduction.(3)

The authors also conclude that such minifasting also helps to improve memory and even may boost immunity.

Experts say that there are many reasons as to why fasting in this manner is effective.

Mark Mattson, who is a researcher at the National Institute of Aging, explains that the benefits of going without food are plentiful. He says that going without eating tells the body to use up stored glucose and in turn, burn fat. While this may appear to have weight loss benefits, he also says that there may be brain health benefits associated with this dietary lifestyle that involves learning and memory improvements, and it’s something he continues to study.(1)

When fasting, fat often coverts to compounds known as ketones. This, he says has “…beneficial effects in making neurons more resistant to injury and disease.”(1)

Fasting more natural for the body, modern way of eating abnormal

Others suggest that eating several meals during a mostly routine schedule is simply not natural for the body. Therefore, they advocate fasting.

In fact, an article that appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences hones in on how most of humans’ and animals’ time on this planet has involved fasting. Eating at structured time intervals is something that modern society engages in, and it’s actually out of the norm in terms of what the body was designed to do.

This article states:

The most common eating pattern in modern societies, three meals plus snacks every day, is abnormal from an evolutionary perspective. Emerging findings from studies of animal models and human subjects suggest that intermittent energy restriction periods of as little as 16 h can improve health indicators and counteract disease processes. The mechanisms involve a metabolic shift to fat metabolism and ketone production, and stimulation of adaptive cellular stress responses that prevent and repair molecular damage.

Sources for this article include:


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