Health Benefits & Risks of Fasting

Fasting is considered a religious duty across different communities. However, this kind of fasting is completely different from medical fasting which is believed to have multiple positive effects on human body. Medical fasting could refer to periodical intake of food and drink.

A study by Dr Valter Longo and his co-researchers at the University of Southern California have found that abstaining food and drink for 2-4 hours could regenerate new immune cells in place of old removed ones, thereby rebooting the immunity system. This process could build up protection against cell damages that may be caused by chemotherapy and aging.

Health Benefits of Periodic or Medical Fasting:

Weight Loss:

The body is not able to receive energy from food when you fast. It leads to depleting level of glucose that is stored in muscles and liver. The process starts around 8 hours after consumption of the last meal. With the stored glucose being used up, the body starts burning out fat in order to get energy. It results into weight loss.

Reduction in Cholesterol Level:

Dr. Razeen Mahroof, a professor at the Oxford University, UK, has found that when the body uses fat to get energy, it leads to reduction in cholesterol level and preserving of muscle.

Elimination of Toxin:

Toxin is very harmful for body. Its elimination reboots immunity system of body as well as provides it with renewed energy. Detoxification also occurs during fasting as it is stored in body’s fat that gets dissolved.

Mental Happiness:

Endorphins is known as ‘feel-good’ hormone. The research suggests a few days of fasting trigger the secretion of this hormone in the blood and it leaves a positive effect on individual’s mental health.

Regeneration of Immunity Cells:

Prolonged fasting could help in regeneration of immunity cells. During fasting, body always tries to save energy in different ways, one of which is by recycling immune cells including the damaged ones as well as those not required.

The research claims further that the cancer patients fasting for 3 days before undergoing chemotherapy developed an added level of protection against system damage that may be caused during treatment and this prevention mechanism is related to cell regeneration.

Potential health benefits of periodic fasting as found in the research by some eminent scholars across the world encourage an increasing number of individuals to put aside their regular diet and give fasting a try.

However, intermittent fasting is not without a fair share of health risks. Some researchers and healthcare experts have warned that fasting could result into a number of health hazards and should be avoided.

Risks of Fasting

Despite the aforementioned health benefits of fasting, it is never recommended for all and sundry. Findings by the researchers at National Health Service of UK clearly establish that there are some serious health risks of periodic fasting.

Dehydration: The most common problem resulting from fasting is dehydration because body is unable to get fluid from any source.

Increase in Stress Level:  If it is no medical fasting, then fasting could add to your stress. Everyone is used to take breakfast, lunch or dinner at particular times and so fasting often becomes a big challenge as it could add to one’s stress level for not getting food at the usual time.

Disruption of Sleep:  A stressed individual finds it extremely hard to catch sound sleep. Increase in stress level, which may be caused due to fasting, could result into headache and insomnia.

Other Problems:  Fasting could also lead to heartburn as lack of food could cause depletion in stomach acid level. Acid in stomach helps in food digestion and also kills bacteria. Smell of food and even thinking about the same (the latter is very common during fasting) could trigger secretion of more acid, which, in turn, could cause heartburn.

No Effect on Long-Term Weight Loss:  Despite the findings by some scientists that fasting results into weight loss, others are skeptical about the claim. According to the dissenting group, fasting does not produce any positive effect for long-term weight loss. They are of the view that fasting causes only fluid loss and never results into substantial loss of weight

Some researchers think that fasting actually adds to one’s weight. This is because, once the particular time period of fasting is over, individuals tend to eat or drink more. And it clearly means that those individuals actually put on more weight instead of shedding it off.

Some doctors and medical practitioners think that fasting, even if it is intermittent one, keeps people away from healthy and timely intake of food. Therefore, fasting could cause eating disorders.