Fasting is a practice that involves abstaining from food or certain types of food for a period of time. Fasting has been used for religious, spiritual, and health purposes for centuries. But what does the science say about the benefits of fasting? Here are some of the main findings from recent studies.
Fasting can help improve blood sugar control, insulin sensitivity, and metabolic health, which may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and its complications. It has been shown to reduce inflammation, a key factor in many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis. Fasting may also promote weight loss by increasing fat burning and enhancing appetite regulation. Some studies suggest that fasting may even extend lifespan by activating cellular repair processes and improving resistance to stress. But is fasting right for everyone?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a type of fasting that involves alternating periods of eating and fasting, such as 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating, or 24 hours of fasting once or twice a week. IF has been shown in some to have various health benefits, such as:
- Improving blood sugar control by reducing insulin resistance
- Fighting inflammation, which can improve a range of health issues from arthritic pain to asthma
- Clearing out toxins and damaged cells, which lowers the risk for cancer and enhances brain function
- Enhancing weight loss and body composition by increasing fat burning and preserving muscle mass
IF may also have some negative effects on muscle mass, metabolism, hormonal balance, and mood in some people. IF may not be suitable for everyone, especially those with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or pregnant or nursing women. IF may also be difficult to sustain in the long term and may lead to binge eating or nutrient deficiencies if not done properly.
A fasting-mimicking diet (FMD) is a type of fasting that mimics the effects of fasting without requiring complete food restriction. FMD involves consuming a low-calorie, low-protein, high-fat diet for five days every month or every few months. FMD was developed by Dr. Valter Longo, a leading expert in aging research and longevity medicine at the University of Southern California. FMD has been shown to have various health benefits, such as:
- Extending lifespan and health span by activating cellular repair and regeneration
- Boosting immune function and vaccine efficacy by stimulating stem cell production
- Reducing risk factors for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer by lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, and inflammation
FMD may also have some negative effects on digestive health, electrolyte balance, immune function, and quality of life in some people. FMD may not be safe for everyone, especially those with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or pregnant or nursing women. FMD may also be expensive and hard to follow without professional guidance.
Water Fasts vs Juice Fasts
Water fasting and raw juice cleanse or fast are two types of fasting that involve consuming only water or only juice, respectively, for a period of time. Both types of fasting can induce ketosis, which is a metabolic state where the body uses fat as its main source of energy. However, there are some differences between water fasting and juice fasting, such as:
- Water fasting provides no calories or nutrients, while juice fasting provides some calories and nutrients from fruits and vegetables
- Water fasting boosts cell autophagy more than juice fasting, which is the process of cleaning out old and damaged cells
- Water fasting gets the body deeper into ketosis than juice fasting, which can enhance fat burning and brain function
- Juice fasting does not give the digestive and endocrine systems a real break, while water fasting does
- Juice fasting can be expensive, while water fasting is cheap
However, water or juice fasting may also have some serious health risks such as dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, muscle loss, nutrient deficiencies, blood sugar fluctuations, and infections. Water or juice fasting may not be safe for anyone with medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or pregnant or nursing women. Water or juice fasting may also be harmful for children, teens, older adults, or people with certain digestive conditions.
As you can see, there is no clear-cut answer to whether fasting is good or bad for you. It depends on many factors such as your health status, your fasting goals, your fasting method, your fasting duration, and your dietary quality. Fasting may have some benefits for some people under some circumstances but it may also have some drawbacks for others. Therefore, it is important to consult your healthcare practitioner before starting any type of fasting and to monitor your health closely during and after the fast.
Want to try a fast? Our 5 Day programs are a great way to try a fast that is properly balanced. What are your goals for fasting? What type of fasting are you interested in? Let us know in the comments.