Intermittent fasting (IF) is NOT a diet, it is a way of eating that is sustainable over the long run to help you live a long healthy life. It increases the body’s ability to protect and repair itself and reduces chemical reactions in the body that promote aging such as oxidative damage and inflammation. IF has been shown to help reduce obesity, high blood pressure, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, caner, diabetes, dementia, Alzheimer’s and memory loss.
One of the ways IF is protective against all the above mentioned diseases is because fasting lowers IGF-1, (Insulin-like Growth Factor), which we need when we are young and still growing, but high levels of IGF-l appear to cause accelerated aging and cancer later in life. IF also switches on repair genes by a process called autophagy which means to “self-eat”. During autophagy the body breaks down and recycles old tired cells and this sparks the production of new cells and stimulates the product of stem cells (cells that when activated can grow into most any other cell). Fasting also reduces activity of a gene called PKA. PKA produces an enzyme that normally slows down regeneration, so by reducing PKA we stimulate our stem cells to switch into regenerative mode. IF increases BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factors) which have been shown to increase memory and mood and protect the brain from dementia and age-related mental decline. And finally, fasting improves insulin sensitivity making it easier for our body to regulate our blood sugar. Put simply, high levels of insulin lead to increased fat storage and low levels lead to fat depletion.
The easiest way to approach IF is to choose 2 days a week (or 3 if you are looking to lose significant amounts of weight) and do not eat for a period of 16 hours. Most people choose to fast through breakfast, but you could fast from lunch to the following breakfast. You can choose two different days each week if your social calendar changes from week to week. During the 8 hours you are not fasting women can have 500 calories and men can have 600, split into two small meals. By not eating for 16 hours, you are telling your body to turn off your fat storage and turn on your fat burning. The other 5 days a week you continue to eat a balanced whole food diet.
This information is excerpted from the book The FAST Diet by Dr. Michael Mosley. If you are interested in trying IF, I highly recommend you read Dr. Mosley’s book. You are also welcome to consult me as I have adopted this way of eating and I am happy to share my experience and knowledge with you.
Dr Julia Wray