From wellness circles to religious observances, people from all walks of life and for a variety of reasons observe the fast.
In fact, a recent US Survey showed that 10% of Americans say they engage in some form of fasting regimen. This is higher than other popular eating habits such as vegetarian (3%), Mediterranean-style (5%) and keto (7%).
But are there real health benefits to controlled calorie restriction? And will people know how to try to fast?
“There doesn’t seem to be any downside to intermittent fasting or … restricting what you eat and drink to a certain number of hours each day,” National Geographic contributing author Fran Smith told ABC OTV.
Smith explores the science behind fasting For the publication’s new “Mind, Body, Wonder” series.
“You don’t need to eat three times a day. Or every three hours. No. We’re not children. We don’t need to grow up,” says Tzipi Strauss, a physician who is founding a clinical center for healthy longevity in Israel. Sheba Medical Center, said Smith.
Decades of research Show the rise of fasting, Smith found. It is good for blood sugar control, improving heart health, losing excess weight, protecting against chronic disease and possibly delaying cognitive decline.
It can even help reverse the effects of aging.
“(Intermittent fasting) This promotes a cellular process called autophagy, which is a fancy way of saying self-eating. Your cells consume their own debris, and that allows the cells to replenish themselves with really functional components and work better,” Smith said.
Smith clarified that this research does not extend to day-long fasting, which can cause muscle wasting and other problems.
But short-term diet-free breaks can work for almost everyone, even those with physically demanding lifestyles. one Study showed that San Diego firefighters working during California’s worst fire season responded well when a fasting rule was introduced.
“There were no issues with performance, and in fact, the eating regimen showed all kinds of benefits… They really showed improvement in their heart function and their sugar levels,” Smith said.
From skipping breakfast daily to changing eating patterns weekly, researchers have experimented with a variety of fasting protocols — even on themselves. There may be an ideal ratio of how much to eat and when to eat it, but science has yet to figure out what it is.
“One of the things that’s really interesting to me in reporting this is how many scientists in the aging and longevity space actually fast… they’re convinced by the evidence,” Smith said.
Bottom line: Find out what’s right for you.
“Any fasting protocol is better than no fasting protocol,” Smith said.
In his report, Smith found that one researcher even designed a diet that tricks your body into thinking it’s fasting. Read more NatGeo.com.
ABC OTV and National Geographic will explore health and wellness through four lenses: longevity, women’s health, brain health, and food and nutrition. Using the latest scientific research and information from experts in the medical field, we’ll answer questions about what your health needs in the future.
The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of National Geographic Partners and this ABC station.