Can Fasting Make Us Healthier?

Conventional wisdom tells us that skipping meals isn’t good for our bodies. Or is it?

There actually is a specific, and scientifically proven, method of dieting (i.e. restricting calories) that can make us metabolically healthier (reverse type II diabetes), lose weight (slowly but surely and keep it off!), and maybe even live longer. This type of dieting is known as intermittent fasting; in other words, choosing to go without food for a defined period of time.

There are many ways to go about intermittent fasting, but one of the most effective and proven ways is the 5:2 method popularized by Dr. Michael Mosley, author of “The Fast Diet”. In this method, regular eating takes place for 5 days a week, and caloric intake is restricted to 1/3 of maintenance level (about 500 – 600 kcal) on the other two, non-consecutive days.

At this level of calorie restriction, the body is forced to use up all of its own glycogen energy (starch equivalent for sugar fuel to the body stored in liver and muscles), and just barely start to borrow energy from its fat reserves. Coming to the “edge” of the fat burn is the magic of this diet, since it represents a metabolic workout and is not stressful like daily energy debt diets.

If this 5:2 pattern is followed regularly, metabolic and psychological retraining occurs in which the body and mind become more attuned to satiety and hunger. This method allows weight to come off slowly over time and in such a way that the weight loss can be permanent, since the body and mind have had time to recalibrate and develop a new metabolic setpoint. Another benefit of this type of fasting is greater control of blood sugar levels, particularly important in Type II diabetes.

During a weight loss phase over weeks to months, the body gradually adapts to its more natural and optimal weight, and adjusts better to hormonal signals through the fasting cycles. At some point, weight loss reaches an endpoint and, if continued, the 5:2 eating style becomes a maintenance diet, in which the fat is restored before the next fasting day through normal non-restricted eating.

Besides steady and weight loss, studies have shown that there are other notable benefits of intermittent fasting such as increased stress resistance, lower risks of cancer, type II diabetes, and heart disease, reduces the inflammatory levels in the body, and increases longevity.

A popular CBC radio science show, Quirks and Quarks, explored the science behind this popular weight loss trend in an episode called “Intermittent fasting: why not eating (for a bit) could work for weight loss and health”. I highly recommend checking it out if you’re interested to learn more about why this type of dieting can work.

Many of you have probably heard me talk during our sessions about this 5:2 method of allowing your body to re-tune into and re-create its healthiest version. I have a few copies of “The Fast Diet” on hand at the clinic to lend out if you want to learn more, ask me about it next time you come in!

To augment your dietary approach, also try acupuncture to help you on your way during weight loss and supporting health.