Fasting: What are the benefits to our organization

On March 18 (Clean Monday) officially begins the strictness of the Great Forty-Sarakostis (Sarakostis), which lasts until the Great Saturday, preparing believers for Easter, namely the Resurrection of the Lord (5 May) In addition to spiritual meaning, however, many fast to lose the unnecessary weights that accumulate mainly around the abdomen – the so-called “suspious” – and to look more attractive, but also for various other health reasons. Thus, there are not a few who have tried to start intermittent fasting that implies switching food with abstinence from it for specific hours of the day, or the “extended” meaning from two days fasting on. “The intermittent fasting, especially the time-limited diet such as diet 5:2 and diet 16:8, has become popular in recent years. It concerns eating food within a time-limited window every day, usually eight to ten hours,” says Dietologist Marcela Fiuza who is a representative of the British Dietological Society. Undoubtedly, weight loss may be an important incentive to fast, and we may also have potential benefits in our body, such as better bowel health, good heart function, and lower blood pressure. However, we must point out that the various forms of fasting do not guarantee all the above benefits, since they are not suitable for all persons, such as pregnant women, diabetes mellitus sufferers, those who have food disorder, elderly people and children. How fasting affects the human organism, however, before we analyse the potential benefits of fasting, it is necessary to see the metabolic changes that occur in our body. According to Marcela Fiuza “during fasting the body makes a number of metabolic adjustments to maintain optimal function in the absence of external fuel (food). In the early hours of fasting, the body resortes to glycogen storage for energy. Once these are exhausted, there is a metabolic ‘stopper’: the body begins to break down fatty acids into ketones that are then used as a source of energy. The time for this metabolic change depends on your last meal, the amount of energy you use and the amount of glycogen stored in your liver. On average it may take 12-26 hours without food.” However, according to the dietologist, further scientific research is required in order for experts to reach secure conclusions about the potential benefits that fasting offers. “Many studies, mainly in animal models, suggest benefits from being in a fasting state and there are increasing evidence that results from human testing. But more research is needed until we can fully understand the long-term effects of fasting on human health,” he emphasises. What are the four potential benefits of fasting 1. Self-eating Self-eating is a cell recycling process, allowing the body to break down and reuse old cell parts so that they can function more effectively. In particular, it is the body’s way of caring for itself and getting rid of mutant cells that could evolve into cancer or neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. That is why researchers study the role of self-eating, after a fasting period, in the possible prevention and control of diseases. “The evidence from a study published in Science Direct suggests fasting can enhance autophagia” nutritionist, Marcela Fiuza, points out. At the same time, in a relevant study published in the Autophagy Journal, it was found that fasting could “reset” our body and help it function more effectively by cleaning cell remains. 2. Health of the bowel Fasting may also have multiple benefits to the health of the intestine, largely supporting the “microvioma of the bowel”. The reason for probiotics found mainly in the thick and thin intestines and considered beneficial in several functions of our organism. “Some forms of fasting can be beneficial for the microvioma of the intestine, which has been associated with a number of health benefits, such as improving metabolic health and the reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and obesity” emphasizes dietologist, Marcela Fiuza In addition, relevant studies have shown that fasting day-to-day (24 hours of normal food intake followed by 24 hours fasting) helps to remove harmful microbes, strengthening the health of the microvioma of the intestine. 3. Benefits in cardiovascular function and blood sugar Fasting can also play a key role in the proper functioning of insulin in our body, i.e. the hormone produced by pancreatic beta cells, known as Langerhans’ islets, controlling blood sugar levels. Adjusting our blood sugar entails a reduced risk for developing diabetes mellitus, but also weight gain, resulting in reduced chances of cardiovascular disease. In this direction, dietologist Marcela Fiuza notes that intermittent fasting could improve heart health by reducing low density lipoprotein (LDL, or poor cholesterol), as well as regulating blood pressure, however, further research in this field is needed. 4. Advantages in kg loss Weight loss is achieved through the calorie deficit which means that food intake is less than our body’s energy expenditure, so fasting can help achieve this goal. “It may possibly help some to lose weight in the short term. Although it does not appear to be superior to other types of calorie restriction diet for this purpose,” the nutritionist comments accordingly. According to research in the Canadian Family Physics journal, it was found that intermittent fasting resulted in weight loss at levels of 0.8% to 13% of baseline body weight. In addition, of course, to the fact that when we stop the strict fasting, we may “remove” the lost pounds back, there are some negative effects on our body, according to the dietologist: “There are possible side effects from each fast, but most usually retreat over time. The main are lethargy, irritability and headaches, but there is also a risk of eating disorder for those predisposed to eating disorders. The prolonged fasting is much more intense than intermittent fasting and anyone who thinks about it should first speak to a doctor.” Finally, it is worth stressing that intermittent fasting may not be suitable for all individuals. ‘Pregnant persons or persons with type 1 diabetes or suffering from eating disorder or taking medicines with food, as well as children and older adults, should avoid fasting’ concludes Marcela Fiuza.