Friday, August 08, 2008

The Benefits of Fasting

The two great fears that people have about fasting is losing muscle mass and slowing metabolism. People often also experience weakness and dizziness.

It seems to me that most people think it is essential to never feel hungry and that being hungry is a highly dangerous state for the body to be in. They are at risk of muscle wasting and scurvy or something. Mothers have always forced their children to eat and are greatly concerned when their children don’t eat their packed school lunches. It is ingrained from an early age that you need to stay well nourished.

Many of the world’s religions have promoted fasting and the decline in religious belief has probably had something to do with the decline in fasting too. It kind of seems nutty to go on a fast even for just a single day.

Yet could there be health benefits to be had from fasting? Check out this interesting link and have a read.

My thinking is this:

If you lose muscle due to not eating enough your body is probably smart enough to recycle bits of itself that are not in an optimal state. Cells that are old or damaged are likely to be recycled first and this, to my mind, must be a good thing.

Slowing metabolism is also a good thing as a slower metabolism will mean a longer life. It may not result in you winning an athletics competition but how many of us are doing that anyway?

Weakness and dizziness is a result of sugar addiction. If your body is trained to burn fat as a primary fuel source you will not experience this as you have plenty of stored fat to draw upon. Even a lean person has many weeks of stored fat.

Disease like scurvy and other vitamin deficiency ailments are as the result of severe malnutrition. Scurvy happens as a result of months at sea on a square-rigger eating nothing but dry biscuits. This is unlikely to happen to you!


Chainey said...

Interesting. On the "scurvy" question I have some links that may be interesting. The reason why Stefansson didn't get scurvy on his year-long meat-only diet is supposed to be that there was no sugar in his diet, and supposedly "Vitamin C must compete with glucose to reach the tissues and organs through a common cellular transport system." [ref]

Clearly the Inuit did not get scury - what was their supply of citrus fruits?

Here are some technical refs if you're interested in such things (I admit I don't understand the science very well, but I collect these things for later perusal):

The Glucose/Insulin System and Vitamin C

Vitamin C: an aldose reductase inhibitor

Reduced mononuclear leukocyte ascorbic acid ...

Inhibition of protein glycation ...

AA said...

Hi Chainey

Welcome to my lonely outpost on the fringe of cyberspace. Thanks for the links, I will take a look as I love that sort of stuff even though I don't understand a lot of it too.

I believe if you eat fresh meat you won't get scurvy, also if you try and eat the whole animal too. I heard that traditional Inuit even ate the stomach contents of the seals they caught.

Western folks are terrified of not getting their vitamins and even I down a fizzy multi from time to time.