Fasting: The Negatives, The Positives, And How To Do It

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Whether it’s the 5:2, 16:8 or OMAD, fasting methods have become part of our health vocabulary in recent years. 

Kim Pearson, Nutritionist

Recent research into fasting has turned previous nutrition advice on its head. Advice like always eating breakfast, eat little and often and never go hungry are being strongly challenged by leading experts in health and longevity. 

We now understand that going for extended periods of time without food can provide a wide range of benefits. Fasting has been shown to promote health and longevity by reducing numerous disease risk factors and promoting cellular regeneration. 

When carried out in the right way, fasting will not automatically result in a reduced metabolic rate or rebound weight gain as once believed.

The limitations of 5:2

Traditional prolonged fasting involves consuming nothing but water for a period of several days. Leading experts in the field believe that in order to experience the full range of health benefits that fasting can provide, prolonged fasts should be carried out for more than three to four days. They point to evidence that shorter periods of food restriction, such as the 5:2, simply do not induce the same cellular regeneration benefits that prolonged fasts do.

The benefits of true fasting

Prolonged fasting has been shown to induce autophagy – a process that helps to maintain healthy cellular function. During autophagy cells repair, regenerate and rid themselves of debris. Prolonged fasts also promote stem cell generation. Water only fasts induce ketosis during which the body switches over from using glucose (from carbohydrates) as a primary energy source, to burning stored body fat. This can be a very effective way to reduce excess body fat and reduce risk factors associated with carrying excess weight. 

But going for extended periods without eating is simply unrealistic for many and it carries the risk of becoming depleted in essential nutrients. Enter fast mimicking diets…

What are fast mimicking diets?
A concept developed by Professor Valter Longo and researchers at the University of Southern California, who have carried out extensive research into periodic fasting. Fasting mimicking diets (FMDs) provide the benefits of water only fasting but with a specially designed, plant based diet plan that does not trigger nutrient sensing pathways.

What’s the evidence for FMDs?
FMDs are the result of two decades of research and millions of dollars of Federal funding. In studies, FMDs reduced risk factors for ageing and diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Benefits include reduced visceral fat and levels of systemic inflammation, stem cell generation and autophagy.

What are the pros?
Fasting mimicking diets provide the health and cellular regeneration benefits of periodic fasting but without having to give up food altogether. For many of us, a programme which allows food can seem less daunting compared with consuming water alone for several days. Compared with periodic water only fasting there is reduced risk of certain contraindications. 

The provision of specifically designed plant based meals means that the body still receives essential nutrients whilst remaining in a fasted state. 

What are the cons?
As with water only fasting, it’s important to make sure that you have no medical contraindications. FMDs cannot be done by individuals who are allergic to the ingredients in the programme which include nuts and soya. 

How to do it

For healthy individuals it is recommended that three FMD cycles are completed over three months initially, with 25 days off in-between cycles. After the initial three cycles, it is recommended that three cycles are completed per year on an on-going basis. 

ProLon is the world’s first fasting mimicking diet. The five-day diet plan comes simply packaged, including plant-based energy bars, soups and a variety of snacks, drinks and supplements. These are all carefully chosen to be convenient and have minimal disruption on daily life. To ensure you’re safe to undertake ProLon, first see an approved doctor or nutritionist who can assess you and provide advice on how to tailor the programme to your needs. Alternatively, you can complete the screening questionnaire at www.prolon.co.uk.

A celeb favourite

Harley Street Nutritionist Kim Pearson works with a number of celebrities and high profile individuals, recently helping Matt Smith get into shape for his role in new Marvel film Morbius. Kim recommends fasting mimicking diets and explains why they are popular amongst celebrities including Jennifer Anniston, Gwyneth Paltrow and Eva Longoria. 

“It’s easy to understand why a fast mimicking diet like ProLon is appealing for Jennifer Anniston. Celebrities have to balance out tiring schedules involving long days of filming and regular long haul flights with looking their best for photo shoots and red carpet events. They feel pressure to look their best just like everyone else, only the eyes of the world are on them. Using a fast mimicking diet is ideal. Not only has it been proven to promote cellular regeneration and slow down ageing processes, it’s also a healthy way to lose body fat quickly but healthily. It’s practical too, which is important for all of my clients with busy schedules. There are five days worth of specially designed plant based meals which provide your body with essential nutrients to keep energy levels up. It means you can achieve the health benefits of an extended water only fast, without having to go without food.”

One of Kim’s A list clients was flying back from filming in LA and had a photo shoot with a major fashion brand just days later.  “Unfortunately the food she’d been able to access on set while filming was not ideal. This, combined with the flight, meant she was feeling bloated and puffy. Obviously she was keen to look her best for this shoot. She called me in a panic, so I recommended ProLon. After a just three days she text me to say she felt so much better and was far more relaxed about the shoot”

It is important to note that fasting is not right for everyone. If you have an active infection or disease, a history of syncope (fainting), are pregnant or taking regular medication you should not fast unless specifically recommended to by a qualified and experienced practitioner. Although research has demonstrated that fasting can help improve blood sugar regulation, fasting should not be recommended to medicated diabetics due to the risk of blood sugar levels dropping too low. Fasting is not recommend for anyone with an eating disorder. 

When carried out in the right way, fasting has been scientifically proven to promote health and longevity, promote cellular rejuvenation and provide a potential solution to many of the most common diseases facing our society today.

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