All good things taken out of proportion can be hazardous for your well-being, same with food intake. While there is a lot of confusion regarding fasting being a healthy choice or a mistake, let us explore the positives with an open mind.
Some of the main benefits of fasting include weight loss, normal insulin sensitivity, lower triglyceride level in the body and reduced signs of aging. The time span of fasting can range from 4 hours to 3 days! Well, obviously, the longer fasts will have some amount of liquid and semi-liquid food intake to give the body the balanced proportions it needs to function properly.
Each diet plan has its own pros and cons, also, a lot of factors must be kept in mind like age, body weight, health issues, lifestyle while selecting a plan. It is advisable to seek the help of a nutritionist or a dietician before choosing to fast as not all body types are benefited from long term fasts.
Some consider fasting to be pointless as it involves a severe loss of nutrients, because while abstaining from junk food, one also deprives the body of healthy fats, proteins, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins. It may also give rise to harmful habits like binge eating that can add extra weight in a short period of time.
The University of Southern California had conducted a large scale research that has given this debate a new spur. A group of people were asked to fast for 2 to 4 days at a stretch for a period of over 6 months. This lead to an interesting chain of discoveries as the body produced a lot less of enzyme PKA during the fasting period, a hormone associated with cancer risk and growth of tumors. It also had remarkable changes in the immune system of the persons involved.
Prof. Valter Longo, the primary researcher of the study was taken aback by the findings. He said, “What we started noticing in both our human work and animal work is that the white blood cell count goes down with prolonged fasting. Then when you re-feed, the blood cells come back. So, we started thinking, well, where does it come from?”
For those who are suffering from a lot of diseases all at once, undergoing chemotherapy or are ageing – this research brings a lot of things into perspective. It is a hopeful scenario, for the body receives a wake-up call from the brain whereby it is instructed to conduct a “stem-cell based regeneration of the hematopoietic system.”
It helps the system make use of the excess glucose, fat, ketones stored in the body and start breaking down a huge amount of white blood cells. New immune system cells are produced in the process of white blood cell destruction.
According to Professor Longo, “When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged.” What this study essentially shows is that a long fast for about 72 hours if followed by a renewed intake of healthy, balanced diet routine can help rebuild your immune system gradually.
Tanya Dorff, assistant professor at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital who was also a researcher in the study believes “While chemotherapy saves lives, it causes significant collateral damage to the immune system.
The results of this study suggest that fasting may mitigate some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy. More clinical studies are needed, and any such dietary intervention should be undertaken only under the guidance of a physician.”
It is important to take breaks as it helps the body detox but this does not mean you have to starve yourself. Be smart while choosing to fast and consult a dietician regarding what you are expecting and what your body can take.
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