The benefits of caloric restriction for body, mind, and soul
Easter is one of the main venues people remind themselves of fasting. But fasting is not just a trend of religious people being up-to-date: Even Hippocrates as one of the well-known doctors of the ancient world – who lived years before Christ – knew that fasting can have good effects on one’s body, mind, and soul.
Especially nowadays, fasting comes more and more to the fore. Our daily life gets faster, more stressful, and we tend to have less time to eat consciously. Our body, mind and soul have to work properly and are often pushed to their limits. We get all we want instantly everywhere and live in an affluent society. Mostly, such an extreme causes another one: People tend more and more to put this to an end and try to detox themselves and their daily life, for example with fasting.
Nowadays, more people die from lifestyle diseases which are linked to insufficient exercise and obesity. We tend to eat too much (above all too much sugar) and workout too little: More than 65% of all women and more than 70% of all men over 20 in the US are overweight. More than 30% are obese… and counting.
Can our bodies deal with caloric restriction?
Hell, yeah! For thousands of years, our body was more fasting than anything else. Experts say that our body is made for dealing with lean times – even better than dealing with gluttony and obesity.
During caloric restriction and fasting our body is able to adapt our metabolism to the new circumstances. First, we make use of our glycogen in our livers and excess protein in our connective tissue. Then, we burn our own fat. Our metabolism is even able to make energy and ketone bodies to provide enough energy for e.g. our brain functions. This process is called ketose and is well-known in the low carb-movement – soon more on this.
Negative impacts of fasting
If we tend to move too little while fasting, our body tends to lose muscle mass. Even our gut bacteria don’t get enough food and immunocompromised people might be prone to infections. But these arguments are not convincing: Our body tends to reduce muscle mass each time we don’t exercise enough. Plus, our gut bacteria is poorly served by low fiber diets as well – such as the common western fast-food diet.
Both negative effects cannot be expected in a short term caloric restriction with moderate exercise. To be on the safe side, you can eat a minimum of fiber, proteins, vitamins, micronutrients, and minerals each day.
Positive impacts of fasting
A so-called „purification“ is just marketing. There are no slags that our body has to get rid of – as often promoted by some companies to make some money. Still, there are various positive effects on our body – other than just losing weight:
The voluntary food deprivation is proven to elevate our serotonin levels after 2-3 days. This seems to be the reason why people who fast tend to have a high after conquering the first days of starving.
Furthermore, several studies have shown that there is a strong improvement in hypertension, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and arteriosclerosis. Even asthma, allergies and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatism and arthritis can be alleviated. Plus, our digestive system gets the greatest benefits of food deprivation due to being able to make a natural purification – a blogpost on this is coming, soon!
“Everyone has a doctor in him; we just have to help him in his work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well.”Hippocrates
There is a lot of evidence showing links between fasting and decreases in cardiovascular diseases, cerebrovascular accidents, and heart attacks. In 2016, Brandhorst and Longo showed in a study that caloric restriction has positive impacts on cancer treatment. Not only brain function seems to profit from food deprivation but it might also help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. (If you’re interested in these benefits, have a look at the studies of Fontana, Mattson and Wan which you can find in my sources!)
Fasting is the body’s natural detox system
Besides, it should not be neglected that while fasting, each cell starts the process of autophagy. Autophagy is a kind of self-digestion. During this process, each cell of our body starts to have a spring-clean and re-decorates its house. Stuff which is not needed any longer is burned to energy or recycled to new structures. This is a kind of self-healing process which helps us to get rid of molecules which may cause serious health problems later. This topic is getting more and more attention over the past few years. In 2016, even the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi, a Japanese cell biologist specialized in autophagy.
You don’t have to be on a starvation diet to profit from all these benefits of food deprivation. I’ll show you in an upcoming blog post how to profit from all these benefits –to a lesser extent – without facing hunger for several days. Stay tuned 🙂
Did you ever try to spend some days under caloric restriction? What did you experience yourself?
Sources for this blog post
Brandhorst, S./Longo, V. D. 2016: Fasting and Caloric Restriction in Cancer Prevention and Treatment, in: Recent Results in Cancer Research, Vol. 207, 2016, pp. 241-266.
Fontana, L./Partridge, L. 2015: Promoting Health and Longevity through Diet: Form Model Organisms to Humans, in: Cell, Vol.161, 2015, No. 1, pp. 106-118.
Ghachem, A./Prud’homme, D./Rabasa-Lhoret, R./Brochu, M. 2017: Effects of a 6-month caloric restriction induced-weight loss program in obese postmenopausal women with and without the metabolic syndrome: a MONET study, in: Menopause, 2017.
Gillette-Guyonnet, S./Vellas, B. 2008: Caloric Restriction and Brain Function, in: Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, Vol. 11, 2008, No. 6, pp. 686-692.
Giorgetti, A./Marras, G./Genovesi, D./Filidei, E./Bottoni, A./Mangione, M./Emdin, M./Marzullo, P. 2017: Effect of prolonged fasting and low molecular weight heparin or warfarin therapies on 2-deoxy-2-[18F]-fluoro-D-glucose PET cardiac uptake, in: Journal of Nuclear Cardiology, 2017.
Goldhamer, A. C./Listle, D. J./Sultana, P./Anderson, S. V./Parpia, B./Hughes, B./Campbell, T. C. 2002: Medically supervised water-only fasting in the treatment of borderline hypertension, in: Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol. 8, 2002, No. 5, pp. 643-650.
Huether, G./Schmidt, S./Rüther, E. 1998: Essen, Serotonin und Psyche – Die unbewußte nutritive Manipulation von Stimmungen und Gefühlen, in: Deutsches Ärzteblatt, 47. Jg., 1998, Nr. 9, S. 477-479.
Kjeldsen-Kragh, J./Mellbye, O. J./Haugen, M./Mollnes, T. E./Hammer, H. B./Sioud, M./Førre, O. 1995: Changes in laboratory variables in rheumatoid arthritis patients during a trial of fasting and one-year vegetarian diet, in: Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology, Vol. 24, 1995, No. 2, pp. 85-93.
Mattson, M. P. 2016: Lifelong Brain Health is a Lifelong Challenge: From Evolutionary Principles to Empirical Evidence, in: Ageing Research Reviews, Vol. 20, 2016, pp. 37-45.
Raeburn, E. D. 2014: Fasting May Change Brain’s Hunger Response, in: Endocrinology, 2014.
Wan, R./Camandola, S./Mattson, M. P. 2003: Intermittent Food Deprivation Improves Cardiovascular and Neuroendocrine Responses to Stress in Rats, in: The Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 133, 2003, pp. 1921-1929.
Xin, B./Liu, C. L./Yang, H./Peng, C./Dong, X. H./Zhang, C./Chen, A. F./Xie, H. H. 2016: Prolonged Fasting Improves Endothelial Progenitor Cell-Mediated Ischemic Angiogenesis in Mice, in: Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry, Vol. 40, 2016, No. 3-4, pp. 693-706.