I've long thought that the human body was not meant to run on an empty, that fasting was done mainly for religious reasons or political protest. Otherwise we needed a reliably renewed source of fuel to function optimally, mentally, emotionally and physically.

Personal experience reinforced that concept; I'm not pleasant to be around when I am hungry. There's even an official name for that state of mind : hungry!

But prompted by recent enthusiasm for fasting among people concerned about their health, weight or longevity. I looked into the evidence for possible benefits - and risks - of what researchers call intermittent fasting.

Popular regimes range from ingesting few if any calories all day every other day or several times a week to fasting for 16 hours or more every day.

A man I know in his early 50s said he had lost 12 pounds in about two months in what he calls the 7-11 diet. He eats nothing from from 7 p.m. until 11 a.m. the next day every day.

I was skeptical but it turns out there is something to be said for practicing a rather prolonged daily fast, preferably one lasting at least 16 hours. Mark P. Mattson, a neuroscientist at the National Institute on Aging and John Hopkins University School of Medicine, explained that the liver stores glucose, which the body uses for energy before it turns to burning body fat.

''It takes 10 to 12 hours to use up the calories in the liver before a metabolic shift occurs to using stored fat,'' Dr. Mattison told me. after meals, glucose is used for energy and fat is stored in fat tissue, but during fasts, once glucose is depleted, fat is broken down and used for energy.

Most people trying to lose weight should strive for 16 calorie-free-hours, he said, adding that the easiest way to do this to stop eating at 8 p.m., skip breakfast the next morning and then eat again at noon the next day.''

[Caffeine dependent people can have sugar-free black coffee or tea before lunch].

But don't expect to see results immediately; it can take up to four weeks to notice an effect, he said.

Dr. Mattson and his colleagues at the aging institute  Rafael de Cabo recently reviewed the effects of  intermittent fasting on health, aging and disease in  The New England Journal of Medicine.

Their article was prompted by few questions patients have asked their doctors about the health effects of fasting. Given their limited knowledge of nutrition, doctors are often unable to advise their patients, Dr. Mattson said.

Although a number of recent studies have assessed the effects of intermittent fasting on people, none are long term, and the vast majority of disease related findings stem from research on laboratory animals.

For example, in n animal model of stroke, those fed only intermittently suffered less brain damage because they were better able resist the stress of oxygen and energy deprivation.

Other animal studies have shown a ''robust disease modifying'' benefit of intermittent fasting on ''a wide range chronic disorders, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers and neurodegenrative brain diseases.'' the researchers reported.

Their review of both animals and human studies found improvements in a variety of health indicators and slowing reversing of aging and disease processes.

FOR example, human studies of fasting, or intermittent fasting found that it improved, such disease indicators as insulin resistance, blood fat abnormalities, high blood pressure and inflammation, even independently of weight loss.

In patients with multiple sclerosis, intermittent fasting reduced symptoms in just two months, a research team in Baltimore reported in 2018.

The honor and serving of the latest global operational research on Fasting and Humans and Benefits, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Jane E.Brody.


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