November 6

Does Intermittent Fasting Work

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Intermittent Fasting – Does it Work?

25lbs (11.3kg) and Counting - DOWN

Just as the lockdowns were beginning, I came across Dr Jason Fung’s book The Obesity Code- unlocking the secrets to weight loss. ISBN 978-1-925228-79-3 BTW I don’t take any commission out of this recommendation

The Obestiy Code Front Cover

My weight has bounced up and down over many years, and I have always struggled to maintain a healthy weight. The heart attack I had at the end of 2017 was a massive wake-up call and weight is a key factor in cardio vascular stress, so I was trying to bring my weight down.
Getting and keeping my weight down has become much more imperative for me. However, the usual challenges of weight management have assailed me like everyone else, diets don’t work, nothing lasts, and the long term trend has been a gradually increasing waist line and relatively permanent increase in baseline weight. I was seeking answers! Fung came along at the right time.
Fung’s book opened my eyes to what seems obvious, once you appreciate how humans have evolved, he carefully explains the mechanisms at work and what to do to permanently change weight, essentially this a recommendation to adopt a lifestyle of Intermittent fasting (IF). The real key to all of this is insulin resistance NOT calories, more about this later.

Fung’s book opened my eyes to what seems obvious, once you appreciate how humans have evolved. He carefully explains the mechanisms at work and what to do to permanently change weight, essentially this a recommendation to adopt a lifestyle of Intermittent fasting (IF). The real key to all of this is insulin resistance NOT calories, more about this later.
In every culture there is mention of fasting, it has long been used for health and spiritual practice, it is one of the most ancient and widespread healing customs mentioned in Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism traditions. We seem to have lost this in modern societies.
Hippocrates, the daddy of modern-day medicine, prescribed and promoted the practice of fasting and it is increasingly appreciated for many benefits, not just weight loss. We are just beginning to rediscover the health and wellness benefits of using intermittent fasting as a lifestyle choice, to control and reduce stress, manage blood sugar levels and switch on genes crucial to long life, not to mention weight management which is the most immediate and obvious outcome. It works fast and has helped me break a weight plateau.

Insulin resistance - The Real Reason You Get FAT!

Understanding insulin and insulin resistance is what makes the difference to weight loss. Simply, Insulin makes you fat! Actually, the fat is the side effect of the resistance but insulin itself causes the body to store more fat, insulin resistance makes this worse and it becomes a vicious circle as we age.
Insulin works to deliver glucose into cells. Over time cells become resistant to the insulin. Too little glucose is being received by the cell so it calls for more insulin, more insulin ultimately leads to Insulin resistance, weight gain, the potential for diabetes and many other chronic health conditions, not least of which is cardio vascular disease, etc. etc.

What is Intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting works by extending the period over which your body has burned through the calories, in the form of glycogen in the liver that were taken in during your last meal. Once exhausted the body starts burning fat. 16 hours seems to be the threshold at which this begins to happen, so a minimum length of effective fast is 16 hours. My own experience is that once you hit 16 it is then pretty easy to get to 18, 20 and then 24. I have now gone way beyond that and am regularly fasting for 48 hours. I tend to fast during the week and eat more or less normally at weekends.

What is Intermittent fasting?

There are 5 Basic Types

Intermittent fasting is everything about when to eat, that doesn’t mean we should ignore what we eat, or how much when we do.

Modern lifestyles give us access to readily available food and a lifestyle developed around three meals a day. The western diet is full of carbohydrate and we take little exercise by comparison with our ancestors. We stay awake longer, sit in front of screens and often snack. Processed foods are full of the wrong fatty acids and all of this combined has led to a problem now and one that is getting bigger (pun intended) all the time. Being overweight is the modern disease..

The most obvious effect is the reduction in weight, although the potential for the complete reversal of type 2 diabetes gives hope to many who would rather not have to be dependent on drugs.

Global Obesity - A Pandemic by Another Name

Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.

  • ·  In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese. Body Mass Index is the generally accepted measure of obesity. 
    ·  39% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight in 2016, and 13% were obese.
    ·  Most of the world's population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.
    ·  38 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2019.
    ·  Over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 201
    Weight loss: This was my original reason for starting intermittent fasting but the more I looked and experienced, the more I realised other really positive changes were taking place. Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight and belly fat, without having to consciously restrict calories, this occurs naturally as part of the fasting process (as long as you don’t binge in the time that you are eating). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25540982/
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25540982/
    Insulin resistance: Insulin resistance presents no symptoms at first. As blood sugar levels increase the symptoms start to appear when it leads to secondary effects presenting as

    • Lethargy (tiredness) 
    • Hunger
    • Difficulty concentrating (brain fog)
  • Other signs are

    • Weight gain around the middle (belly fat)
    • High blood pressure
    • High cholesterol levels
  • If insulin resistance develops into prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, the symptoms will include increased blood glucose levels and
  • Going to the toilet a lot, especially at night.
  • Being really thirsty.
  • Feeling more tired than usual.
  • Losing weight without trying to.
  • Genital itching or thrush.
  • Cuts and wounds take longer to heal.
  • Blurred vision.
  • More from Diabetes UK here. 
    Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance and lower blood sugar by 3–6% and fasting insulin levels by 20–31%, which could protect against type 2 diabetes.
    Inflammation: Some studies show reductions in markers of inflammation, a key driver of many chronic diseases. Sources: (1), (2), (3)
     There are other factors at play as well such as Omega 3:6 ratios. As I have written about elsewhere too much Omega 6 opens the door to inflammation which is clearly linked to chronic long term disease outcomes such as heart disease and diabetes.
  • Heart health: Intermittent fasting may reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance — all risk factors for heart disease decrease
  • Cancer: Animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting may prevent cancer
  • Brain health: Intermittent fasting increases the brain hormone BDNF and may aid the growth of new nerve cells. It may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease. (4).
  • Anti-aging: Intermittent fasting can extend lifespan in rats. Studies showed that fasted rats lived 36–83% longer.

Fasting is not a magic bullet and it certainly isn't instantaneous. What I have found is that, like anything, its adoption demands determination and stamina, but the outcomes are significant across the board. The difference to simple calorie control is in overcoming insulin resistance which as we now know drives the increase in calorie intake.

The most obvious effect is the reduction in weight, although the potential for the complete reversal of type 2 diabetes gives hope to many who would rather not have to be dependent on drugs.

Summary.

I took to Intermittent Fasting like a duck to water and in the last 3 months of fairly dedicated practice I have shed 25lbs. It was tough at first, but it has become easier and easier and now I regularly fast for 48 hours at a time. I am some way from my target weight but that is now a given, not a wish.

I’ve re-engineered my entire life to change my eating habits to make this a lifestyle choice. It boils down to “live like a hunter gatherer”. Fast for periods of at least 16 hours and build a daily lifestyle around it. Actually, it is pretty easy to start if you eat early in the evening, and resist snacking before bed. By the time you have had 8 hours sleep at least 12 of the minimum 16 hours have passed. Simple! Try it!

Best wishes.

Sue Booth


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