Intermittent fasting: is it for everyone?

The topic of intermittent fasting is breaking popularity records today. This can be judged even by the number of queries in search services. So, according to Yandex statistics, as of February 3, 2021, more than half a million people were interested in this technique in a month. In Google, 67 million results are returned for the query “Fasting” (this is the name of this English method). And experts conduct a tremendous amount of research to find out how hunger affects people and animals’ physical and mental state.

There is new nothing particularly new or unexpected in the approach itself. Fasting periods have been practised in many world religions for centuries and even millennia. People choose to give up food both to maintain spiritual purity and to heal their bodies.
In the last century, fasting became famous thanks to such propagandists as Paul Bragg, who wrote the book “The Miracle of Fasting”, and Porfiry Ivanov, who created his system of health improvement “Baby”.

After the Japanese biologist Yoshinori Osumi received the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology “for the discovery of the mechanisms of autophagy” in October 2016, intermittent fasting reached a new popularity stage. According to the study, it is abstinence from food that triggers this mechanism of “self-eating” of cells, and through it, the body’s self-healing.

Jason Fung, a Canadian nephrologist, has become a modern ambassador for fasting for weight loss and type 2 diabetes. He is the new author of six books, his bestseller The Obesity Code (literally – “Obesity Code”) was released in Russian in 2019 under the title “Wild Hormone”.

1. The ability to reduce the calorie content of the diet without counting calories With any diet, low-carb or low-fat, an essential part of losing weight is a calorie deficit. The most popular way to control calories is by counting, which is most often done using apps. But this method is psychologically exhausting and turns the life of a person on a diet into a quest, a dance around calories.

If you practice skipping one or two meals, the diet’s calorie content decreases along with the skipped breakfast and lunch. The need for constant tedious counting, and therefore, in continuous control, disappears.

2. Starting the process of autophagy, self-healing
The topic of biohacking – extending life, improving physical and mental health by connecting natural mechanisms – excites many minds. And, of course, “biohackers” could not pass by autophagy as an opportunity to push the boundaries of human capabilities and prolong life.

It’s worth noting that while there is now a lot of evidence for the beneficial effects of fasting, all studies have been conducted on mice, yeast cells, and fruit flies. No reviews have been conducted on the initiation and course of autophagy in humans. Nobody knows how long it is necessary to abstain from food, how many days a week it should be done, what conditions must be created for all these mechanisms to start and work.

3. Remember hunger, return to basics
It is worth practising periods of abstinence from food at least to remember what the natural feeling of hunger is. Today people have forgotten what need is, and in fact, this is the only reason to eat. We find many other reasons to throw in food – for the company because it is boring. After all, we have to have breakfast. After all, it’s a lunch break, and there will be no other opportunity to eat because we’ve been treated and cannot be offended.

We seem to be afraid that we will run out of “fuel” somewhere along the road, and we will get up and faint on the highway. We eat in reserve – like we refuel our car when we see the 30% mark in the gas tank. This eating behaviour has led to an obesity epidemic around the world.

It would be perfect for skipping meals from time to time to remember the “taste” of real hunger and further instil in yourself the habit of eating only when hungry.

Pregnant and lactating women. During these periods, any stress is dangerous, and fasting is the cause of physiological and sometimes psychological stress.

People with underweight. During fasting, the body switches to endogenous nutrition, that is, to its internal reserves in the form of fat. With a deficit in body weight, there are simply no such reserves.

People who are in a state of new physical and psychological fatigue. With hard work, exhausting training, adrenal fatigue syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, and other similar conditions, a person experiences stress. Additional stress in the form of fasting can trigger the development of painful conditions due to the weakening of the body’s immune defences.

People with eating disorders. If a person has a tendency to PDA, such as bulimia, anorexia, binge eating disorder, impulsive overeating, food addiction, fasting can provoke an exacerbation. Relapse is also possible if the person is in remission.

People for whom a doctor contraindicates long skipping meals. There are situations in which doctors prescribe frequent fractional meals, usually for diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. In this new case, it is better to listen to the doctor’s instructions.

I’m sure many exciting discoveries are awaiting us, and I hope we learn more about autophagy and the effects of fasting on health and life expectancy. But the main thing is to act without fanaticism and armed with knowledge.

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