When you look at all the research on fasting, it’s astonishing to note all the health benefits that fasting offers. You may remember in the late 1990’s that the Mediterranean diet became the latest fad diet? The idea behind the diet was based on research conducted in the Greek Island of Crete. The research suggested that the diet of the Mediterranean region was superior to the North American diet.
On average, the population of Crete were healthier than North Americans, with less incidence of cardiovascular or heart disease. Researchers attributed this improved health to a high daily intake of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and olive oil.
This theory made good sense, as these are all accepted ‘healthy’ foods. However, recently a group of researchers at the University of Crete, School of Medicine suggest that one very important factor was left out of this research. The majority of the Greek people in this area are religious and In the Greek Orthodox Christian Church there are some very lengthy fasting recommendations.
The Orthodox Church specifies a combination of dietary restrictions and fasting for a total of between 180 and 200 days out of every year. While this is by no means conclusive evidence, it did suggest that a very healthy group of people were not only consuming plentiful amounts of healthy foods, but also took part in routine periods of fasting.
There is strong evidence to show that short term intermittent fasting, was not only an effective and easy way to cut calories and thus lose unwanted body fat, but it was also associated with many amazing health benefits. By short term I mean 1-3 days of fasting and these days would never be in a row. You would want to have a break of at least 2 days between each fast.
The Health Benefits of Fasting
In dozens of published peer reviewed scientific studies, short-term intermittent fasting has been found to have the following health benefits:
- Decreased body fat & body weight
- Maintenance of skeletal muscle mass
- Decreased blood glucose levels
- Decreased insulin levels & increased insulin sensitivity
- Increased lipolysis & fat oxidation
- Increased Uncoupling Protein 3 mRNA
- Increased norepinephrine & epinephrine levels
- Increased Glucagon levels
- Increased growth hormone levels
- Decreased food related stress
Quite a list I’m sure you will agree. What is even more amazing is that many of the benefits were found after as little as 24 hours of fasting! You have to admit, these are impressive findings!
So if fasting can do all of these amazing things, it begs the question – should we all be fasting?
This post has been adapted from the book Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon