For centuries mankind has been practicing “Fasting” the voluntary act of withholding food for a specific period of time. More commonly associated with religious beliefs and political protests.Recently Research has revealed the benefits of fasting and a lot of health professionals are now spreading the word that calorie restriction due to Fasting is linked to; improving the brain function;better cholesterol and blood-sugar control; reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke; aids in weight loss and slows down the aging process.

Fasting causes healthy cells to slow down their metabolism and enhances the repair or survival mode until food is available again. The interesting thing is during “hibernation”, the healthy cells are at less risk of being damaged by the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.Fasting slows down the growth of tumors, and enhances the effect of chemotherapy and radiotherapy as a result while the healthy cells are getting rest, cancer cells are being treated more effectively.

More than 20% of cancer-related deaths are precipitated or even caused by the toxic effects of chemotherapy reducing overall effectiveness of treatment. Researchers at University of California have found that “Starvation-Dependent stress protects normal but not cancer cells against high-dose chemotherapy.”

In other words, there might be a good reason you don’t feel like eating when you’re sick; a lack of appetite may be just what your body needs. So below is a brief description of different types of fasts and you can choose whatever suites your lifestyle and tolerance.

Meal-skipping – randomly skip a meal once or twice a week. This could be a good way to start getting used to fasting.

Intermittent Fasting (IF) – extended periods without eating on a regular basis. Typical intermittent fast is a 16-hour fast, followed by an 8-hour feeding window.

Alternate Day Fasting (ADF) – eat every second day, leaving 36 hours between each 12-hour feeding window.

The 5:2 Diet (Michael Mosley) – Dieters are recommended to consume a ‘normal’ number of calories five days a week and then, for two, non-consecutive days, eat just 25% of their usual calorie total – 500 calories for women and 600 for men.

4-Day Fast (Valter Longo) – Longo argues that it takes at least 4 days to switch to a fully protective and fat-burning profile that involves every single organ in the body. To be done only under medical supervision.

Intermittent-fasting diets are said to be easier to follow than traditional calorie restriction, and an advantage is that you do not have to exclude any food groups. Fasting is a simple concept which appears to promote weight loss, although the hunger experienced can be a limiting factor for some. More evidence is coming to light, regarding the benefits of this type of diet although there is clearly a need for longer term human-based studies.

 

Before you get started, remember it’s not wise to begin fasting if your diet still needs improvement. You have to make sure that you’re consuming the right calories during your periods of eating. Finally, always listen to your body. Everybody responds differently, so be aware of your energy levels and adjust accordingly. And those who are hypoglycemic, diabetic, pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid any kind of fasting.

By; Ayesha Saeed

PhD Scholar HEC

Senior Lecturer & MPhil Program Incharge,

Dept. of Nutrition Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences