Since I read so many health articles on a daily basis I thought I would curate some articles that I believe would be interesting to my patients. Today the article is Fasting — A Powerful Metabolic Intervention That Can Dramatically Boost Your Health
Make sure when you read any article on health that you read it with a critical eye. That being said enjoy the article.
The Loveland Medical Clinic uses therapeutic fasting to help people reverse diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome , obesity and a variety of other chronic diseases. Learn more from this article. Dr Mercola is interviewing George Newman who fasts 5 days out of every 14. While I think that is a bit excessive, there are good things to be learned from this interview. Link to the original article is at the bottom of this post.
Fasting — A Powerful Metabolic Therapy
Newman has really enlightened and motivated me by example about the profound benefits of water fasting, even when you do not have a weight or insulin problem. With a fasting insulin level of less than 2, I really did not think fasting would benefit me. Newman, however, inspired me to revisit this topic, and thanks to our discussions, I now fast for four or five days at a stretch. My first fast was a four-day fast, and I now do a monthly five-day fast.
I actually look forward to it now. There’s no pain. You can get more done — the mental clarity is just profound, not to mention it makes life easier and less expensive since you don’t have to buy, prepare, eat or clean up food for a few days. What I’m most excited about is the fact that it radically improves your body’s ability to digest damaged cells, a process we called autophagy. It also increases stem cells. Newman explains:
“When you look at Valter Longo’s work … their aha moment was when cancer model rodents, mice, were fasted before chemo, during chemo, after chemo and then refed until they came back to their before-fast weight … Chemo will normally knock your white blood cell count way down, but after six or seven cycles [of fasting and refeeding], they noticed that these mice had the white blood cell count of young mice and not cancer model mice with a lot of chemo.
That was intriguing to me. A question I have is, how long must the fast be to really get this [effect]? Because they figured out that the stem cells in these mice were creating new white blood cells … I listened to an interview that Rhonda Patrick had with Guido Kroemer.
He’s a colleague of Valter Longo’s … He mentioned that a mouse, when you fast it for a day, loses 10 percent of its body weight … My point is that if I fast for five days, it’s nowhere comparable to fasting a mouse for two days. So, a question I have is how long do you really need to fast to bring that [stem cell effect] out, and I don’t know the answer to that question.”
Considerations When First Becoming Fat Adapted
Interestingly, the late pathologist Dr. Joseph Kraft determined that about 80 percent of people with a normal glucose response have an abnormal insulin response — a condition he dubbed “diabetes in situ,” in other words, diabetes waiting to happen. He believed this diagnosis could predict who might develop Type 2 diabetes in the distant future, giving you a warning as early as 25 years ahead of time.
To determine your glucose and insulin responses, all you really need is an oral glucose tolerance test and a fasting serum insulin test. Should you find that you, like Newman, have diabetes in situ, becoming keto adapted (fat adapted through nutritional ketosis) is perhaps the easiest way to go about reversing it. While my book “Fat for Fuel” delves into nutritional ketosis and mitochondrial metabolic therapy in greater detail, here are a few helpful pointers:
- Eat a ketogenic diet, high in healthy fats, low in net carbs with moderate amounts of protein
- Make sure you’re eating enough salt. You need probably 6 to 8 grams of high quality natural salt per day. When you’re fasting, this is hard to do because you don’t want to drink salt water. A workaround I use is to simply pour some Himalayan salt in the palm of my hand and lick it. I’ll do that several times a day when fasting. This will help you avoid the so-called “keto flu,” which is nothing more than a sodium deficiency. Getting enough salt from your diet is typically not an issue while you’re on a ketogenic diet
- To prevent much of the discomfort and side effects associated with the transition into fat burning, start by extending the time that you do intermittent fasting. Each day, gradually restrict your eating window until you’re down to four or even two hours. If you do that for a month or so, you’re going to be burning fat, which will make the transition into a ketogenic diet rather easy and complication free
Fat Adaptation Helps Ease Transition Into Fasting
At present, Newman fasts five days every two weeks (and 22 hours a day on eating days, where his diet is ketogenic — 75 percent fat calories, mostly monos, eating from Dr. Steven Gundry’s Plant Paradox food lists; and fairly frequently eating a lot of resistant starches, especially on workout days. He is weight stable from fasting cycle to fasting cycle).
Once a year he also does a seven-day fast with his wife, who otherwise keeps to an intermittent fasting schedule where she fasts 16 hours a day. I currently water fast five consecutive days once a month. This is because most of the fasting metabolic magic of increased stem cells and autophagy doesn’t happen until after three full days of water fasting. However, I strongly recommend becoming fat adapted before making the transition into doing multiday water fasts. Newman agrees, saying:
“Before [you] just dive into a long fast, first I would suggest reading “Fat for Fuel,” [and also] read Jason Fung’s book [“A Complete Guide to Fasting”]. If you’re on medications, be careful. Really think about what you’re doing, especially medications that affect your blood sugar.
This is powerful stuff. You can get into trouble … Arm yourself with knowledge. I’m well adapted … Even when I eat a fairly high carb meal, [my] beta hydroxybutyrate — the serum ketones — [are] still at a minimum 0.5, 0.7, 2.0 which is considered nutritional ketosis.
What I’m saying is I’ve been doing this for so long that my body makes ketones even if I’m not [eating strict low carb] … So, now I’ve transitioned into fasting. It’s a natural transition for my body and I’m convinced that this is how our paleo ancestors worked — it was just a natural transition. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, if I’m out of ketosis for a day, I have go through a two week readaptation [into burning fat for fuel].’”
Water Fasting Is a Powerful Strategy to Optimize Health
There’s enormous fear around water fasting. Many believe their body will go into starvation mode, resulting in all sorts of catastrophes, not to mention having to struggle with unrelenting hunger for days on end. The truth is, if you do your research and apply the strategies recommended in this interview, you’re not going to go into starvation mode; you’re going into health-generating mode. And you’re not going to be overwhelmed by hunger.
“As Fung [reveals] in his book, hunger’s not on a linear upswing. It does come in waves but the longer you fast, generally the easier it gets. If you are keto adapted, then you really don’t have the hunger issue to a great degree at all,” Newman says. I now see fasting as a process of health optimization because the benefits for fasting for four or five days is just extraordinary.
After reviewing Longo’s patents on fasting and fasting-mimicking diet (in which the protein is exclusively vegan and very low in sugar to avoid triggering specific nutrient sensing pathways), one of the things Newman noticed was that human subjects were not pushed into nearly as deep a fasted state as the animal subjects. “They always kind of were dancing around lightweight from my perspective with their human subjects,” he says.
By fasting five days out of every 14, Newman goes far beyond what most clinical practitioners and researchers will attempt, and his lab work provides strong anecdotal evidence that this intense kind of fasting does not impair health — it improves it. At the time of this interview, he had completed 13 cycles of five-day fasts every two weeks, and had not lost any muscle mass, and his bone density is that of someone half his age.
“I did a DEXA scan to get some objective evidence … I have a T score of zero [which] means you have the average bone mineral density of a 30-year-old of your sex. I’m 62 years old. If you had a +1, that would mean you’d have the bone density of one standard deviation above; a -1 would be one standard deviation below.
Then, on my body composition results, and this is for my all my limbs and everything, my body fat percentage was 16.7 … I’m not bodybuilder lean but I’m pretty lean. I checked my blood sugar in the afternoon and it was 31. This is the fifth day of a fast and my serum ketones were at 6 … I went to the gym, and [did a] super slow to failure workout …
I hadn’t done one in about a month and I hadn’t [worked out] on a fasting day, and I managed to increase my time under load by an average of 84 percent. Then I started doing that workout … every fifth day, [and] I’ve managed to incrementally increase my time under load largely every time on the fifth day of a fast, which I thought was interesting because I don’t have any fuel on that day.”
Is Water Fasting Right for You?
Most people would likely benefit from longer water fasting, whether you’re overweight and diabetic or not. The key is to properly prepare yourself and not jump in half-cocked. At 62, and having a diagnosis of AFib, Newman is an inspiring example of how simple lifestyle strategies can turn your health around. In his case, he’s managed to keep his AFib largely under control with a combination of keto adaptation, fasting and magnesium supplementation.
Like George, most of you reading this are not medical or health professionals, and he really shows that if you have intelligence and persistence, you can read the literature and safely implement health strategies that can help solve the problem at its foundational core. Hopefully you’ll consider integrating fasting into your self-help toolkit, because it’s really one of the most profound metabolic interventions I know of.
As an added boon, not only is it not going to cost you a penny, it’ll actually save you money because you won’t be buying food for a few days. As noted by Newman, “I would think that if the population would just do even like a 5-to-2 fast, where you’re fasting two days a week as a general rule, if people did that it would probably change the health trajectory of the nation dramatically.” All of that said, there are several absolute contraindications. If any of the following apply to you, you should NOT do extended types of fasting:
- Underweight, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 or less.
- Malnourished (in which case you need to eat healthier, more nutritious food).
- Children should not fast for longer than 24 hours, as they need nutrients for continued growth. If your child needs to lose weight, a far safer and more appropriate approach is to cut out refined sugars and grains. Fasting is risky for children as it cuts out ALL nutrients, including those they need a steady supply of.
- Pregnant and/or breast-feeding women. The mother needs a steady supply of nutrients in order to assure the baby’s healthy growth and development, so fasting during pregnancy or while breast-feeding is simply too risky for the child.
Hopefully there is enough information between the article and videos for you to make an educated judgement on fasting. I personally use intermittent fasting and a modified fast using coffee with fat. The Loveland Medical Clinic uses fasting in it weight loss and nutritional programs. It is very effective. Micro-nutrient replacement is important for fasting and for that we use vitamin IV infusions. You can read more articles on healthy lifestyle choices here. Call us if you would like a free consultation.