Josef Arnould, D.C. Author of American Diet Revolution
Disclaimer. Strength For Life presents general guidelines for healthful eating, not a prescription for a specific individual. We assume no liability for personal use. Before making changes in your personal dietary habits, consult in person with a doctor on your healthcare team who knows your unique individual health history and who is knowledgeable in human nutrition.
On pages 130-131 of American Diet Revolution! I present reasons why we should allow 12 hours to elapse from the time we last eat food one day until we first eat food on the following day. This is a mild form of intermittent fasting.
What is intermittent fasting? It is an extended period of time, at least 12 hours, in which digestive and other human physiological processes can take place without the interruptions of food breakdown and caloric uptake. Fasting, going 12+ hours without consuming calories from food or beverages, is equivalent to sleeping 7 or 8 hours every day. In both cases, essential regenerative processes occur unimpeded in all organ systems of the human body.
In a recent report published in the New England Journal of Medicine (12/16/19), “Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease,” researcher/authors make it clear that a 12-hour window of fasting is minimal and that we can realize even more health benefits by practicing intermittent fasting for longer periods and/or more frequently. By summarizing research dating back to the 1990s, they document that intermittent fasting can not only help us to reduce excessive body fat and the incidence of obesity, but also improve the human immune system, as well as decrease the rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, and many other chronic disorders plaguing our species today. Without question, intermittent fasting is something each one of us needs to consider.
As informative as the report of these authors is, their recommendations for implementing intermittent fasting are, realistically, too demanding for most of us to implement easily and consistently into our eating habits on a long-term basis. Therefore, in this issue of the Live Better Letter, I present six simpler steps for a more accessible approach to integrating intermittent fasting into your life.
- Step 1. Six nights each week, abstain from eating any food after dinner and from any food the next morning until at least 12 hours have elapsed: ergo, no evening snacks, except for herbal tea or other non-caffeinated, non-caloric beverages. Upon rising the next day, drink slowly a large glass of pure water and pause before breaking your fast. This is minimal intermittent fasting.
- Step 2. One day each week, skip breakfast entirely and drink only non-caloric beverages until noon. Except for people with diabetes or other metabolic disorders, eating breakfast promptly every morning is not essential for good health. If you go 12 to 14 hours without consuming any significant amount of food calories, you will notice a slightly metallic taste in your mouth. This is a sign your body is using ketones from stored body fat to fuel your physical activities. However, the reduction of stored excess body fat is merely one of many health benefits that accrue to us when we extend our fast to 16 -18 hours. Improving blood glucose regulation, decreased production of damaging free radicals, lower inflammation, and increased resistance to stress and disease are just a few of such benefits.
- Step 3. If you succeed in the first two steps, try going without food until noon on a second and/or even a third day of each week. By advancing to this stage, you will become accustomed to the feeling of going without food for extend periods of time. You will know and feel that you do not have to “graze” at food all day in order to be alert and energetic. You will be making the transition from a “sugar burner” to a “fat burner.”
- Step 4. If you succeed with intermittent fasting till noon on two or three days each week, you can extend this concept even further by skipping lunch on one of those days. In other words, you will go nearly an entire 24-hour period, from dinner one day until dinner the next day, without calories from food but with substantial quantities of fluids, especially pure water.
- Step 5. Read my book, American Diet Revolution! to attain a broad understanding of human nutritional health in the 21st Century.
- Step 6. Read “Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease” in the New England Journal of Medicine. You will gain a more complete understanding of the many possible health benefits of intermittent fasting.