Unlocking the health benefits of fasting 

Fasting, the practice of abstaining from food for a certain period of time, has been around for centuries and is commonly used for religious and spiritual reasons. But in recent years, fasting has gained popularity as a way to improve health and well-being. But is fasting really beneficial for our health? Is it just a fad or is there scientific evidence to back up the claims? 


Weight loss is one of the most well-known benefits of fasting. When you fast, your body begins to burn stored fat for energy instead of relying on the food you eat leading to significant weight loss over time. Intermittent fasting, a type of fasting that involves alternating periods of eating and fasting can lead to weight loss, increase insulin sensitivity and decrease inflammation as shown by several studies. During a fast, your body produces less insulin, which is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels resulting in improved insulin sensitivity and a lower risk of diabetes. 


Fasting can improve cognitive function and protect against neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimers by increasing the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is important for the growth and survival of brain cells. 

Another benefit of fasting is that it has been linked to lower levels of inflammation by reducing the inflammatory markers in the body. Inflammation is associated with a wide range of health conditions, including heart disease and cancer. 


Fasting has also been linked to increased longevity through its ability to increase the production of growth hormone and sirtuin. GH is a protein produced in the pituitary gland that plays a role in growth and metabolism while sirtuins are a class of enzymes that play a role in regulating metabolism, inflammation, and aging. 


The mounting evidence of the benefits of fasting is the reason why it has gained popularity in the recent years as more people are finding ways to improve their health. However, there is limited scientific evidence on the long-term effects of fasting and more research is needed. But the available evidence suggests that fasting can be a safe and effective way to improve health. 


To get the most benefits from fasting, it’s important to understand the different types of fasting and the right way to fast. 

One of the most popular fasting methods is intermittent fasting (IF). This type of fasting involves alternating periods of eating and fasting, typically on a daily or weekly basis. There are several different types of IF, including the 16/8 method, where you fast for 16 hours and eat during an 8-hour window, and the 5:2 diet, where you eat normally for 5 days and restrict calories for 2 non-consecutive days. 


Another popular fasting method is the 24-hour fast, also known as the one-day fast. This type of fasting involves eating nothing for 24 hours and can be done once or twice a week. This method is considered to be more challenging than IF, as it requires a full day of abstaining from food. 


Time-restricted eating (TRE), it is similar to intermittent fasting, but the focus is on the timing of meals rather than the duration of fasting. This method involves eating all meals within a specific time frame, typically 8 to 12 hours. 

Lastly, water fasting, the most extreme form of fasting and involves abstaining from all foods and liquids except for water. This type of fasting is not recommended for beginners and can be dangerous if not done under the supervision of a medical professional. 


No matter which fasting method you choose, it’s important to remember that fasting is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Factors such as age, sex, and health conditions should be taken into consideration when deciding on a fasting method. It’s also important to listen to your body and adjust your fasting plan as needed. It’s always recommended to speak with a medical professional before starting a fast, especially if you have any health conditions. 


About The Author

Dr. Coco is a highly-educated and well-qualified primary care physician who graduated from the University of the Philippines Baguio with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and her Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center. She completed her three-year residency training in Family Medicine at Brokenshire Medical Center. She passed her diplomate exams in Family Medicine, given by the Philippine Academy of Family Physicians in 2018. 


Dr. Coco is dedicated to providing comprehensive and holistic care for her patients. She is a primary care physician who believes in delivering continuing comprehensive health care for all. To her, patients are not just a number as she takes time to analyse how she can improve their overall health every chance they can get. 

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