The MANY Health Benefits of Fasting

For those of us who love food and eating, why on earth would we choose to put ourselves through the "horrors" of fasting? Abstaining from the sheer joy and pleasure of constant eating? Who would willingly choose such misery? Yes, I'm still on about The Fast Diet and the concept of intermittent fasting.

First of all, let me assure you that there are zero horrors involved in this diet. Quite the opposite, in fact. Fasting can induce feelings of happiness, even euphoria, in many cases. Although many of us avoid hunger as if it heralded certain death, hunger is really just a passing state. When we fast, hunger doesn't grow and grow until it becomes a terrifying boogeyman the size of Godzilla. Instead, hunger comes and goes. If you wait a few minutes, those pangs will pass.

Second, there are many valuable benefits to fasting. These benefits go way beyond weight loss. Fasting is a form of hormesis, similar to exercise on a cellular level. When you lift weights, you inflict tiny tears in the muscles. The reparation of these tears is what makes muscles stronger. When you fast, you cause a similar type of stress on a cellular level. This stress switches on "repair genes" which can "clean up" areas in the body where inflammation is causing trouble. Studies have shown that fasting can even switch on stem cells and regenerate the immune system. (See The Fast Diet for more information on this process.)

Fasting might also make you smarter! Studies using mice have proven that fasting actually stimulates stem cells in the brain to grow into new nerve cells in the hippocampus--the memory center. Researchers believe that this type of cell growth may have helped our ancestors survive during times of famine.

Because fasting forces the body to switch over from burning glucose (which will always be burned first when it is available) to burning body fat, the pancreas can take a break from pumping out insulin. This is crucial for those who are developing insulin resistance or diabetes. This switch makes cells more sensitive to insulin when food is reintroduced, thus lowering blood sugar levels. In order to switch over to fat-burning, one must fast longer than 10-12 hours. Increased insulin sensitivity will reduce the risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cognitive decline.

Are you convinced yet? Would you like to experiment with me using intermittent fasting? Tomorrow I will discuss step one!